Features — 30 March 2018
The other Bernard’s tough job

Bernard Wagner just picked up the toughest job in Belize. He is now the Mayor of Belize City and the government of the day is from the other party. That other party is notorious for being bad-minded.

The last Mayor of Belize City who belonged to a party that didn’t control the national treasury was Ms. Zenaida Moya. This was between 2006 and 2009. For a little more accuracy, Ms. Zenaida, a UDP, started her reign under the PUP and somewhere near midterm/a little past midterm, the government changed and the party she belonged to took charge.

The PUP, under Said Musa, was not known for old time wotlis politics, so, without diving in, we would think that the governing party did not go out of its way to make her life miserable. We know the previous Belize City administration had privatized sanitation services and there were reports that the contracts put a strain on the budget of the Belize City Council. The fact is that she did have battles to fight. But it is doubtful that the party in government did all in its power to make her fail.

When it comes to Bernard Wagner, the party in power might do just that. The UDP is playing with modern money, but everything about its politics is old time. This is a party that glories in a mean spirit. A lot about core UDP is that people affiliated with the other party got ahead because they held government for a long time, and so their primary business is to fat up those who weren’t on that train. The unfortunate thing about the philosophy is that many hogs get lik who weren’t feeding at the trough, and tearing down to build up is good when you are talking about old buildings and terrible when you are talking about businesses.

Kevin Bernard, the other Bernard, has made a big name for himself while at the helm of Shuga City, Orange Walk Town. Kevin, a PUP, has been running municipal government in Orange Walk Town for some time, with little help from a UDP-controlled treasury.

Looking at the results of the last municipal election, we might conclude after the first glance that the UDP leopard hadn’t been showing its wotlis spots in that town. We could conclude that the people of Orange Walk Town are the sort who don’t buckle under the pressure of bad mind, and Kevin Bernard is just flat out brilliant. That’s what the results in the municipal elections in that town say. Kevin Bernard and his councilor candidates won in an absolute blowout.

A second glance might validate, or rubbish, the first conclusion. What is without doubt is that Kevin Bernard has done well in Orange Walk Town. It is the task of Bernard Wagner to do likewise, in another setting. However, it is to be noted that the tasks are different.

By Belize’s standards, the town Kevin Bernard inherited is well off. The town lies in the heart of sugar country, the industry that has been king in Belize for most of the last fifty years. Sugar has not been so sweet these last twenty years, but the industry remains vital to our national economy. Orange Walk Town did experience a period some years ago when violence was troubling. But that has long tapered off.

The benefit of being in the heart of such a vital industry is an independent people. The citizens of Orange Walk Town have a good housing stock. They have jobs, so they can repair their houses. The job situation for young people is better than it is in most areas. Much can be done to improve the financial life in the municipality, but as living standards go, relative to the rest of towns/cities in the country, it holds its own economically. With the bare subvention from national government, the people of Orange Walk Town and their municipal government took care of business.

   Bernard Wagner, as pointed out previously, enters another setting. His people are vulnerable because there are not enough industries in the area to keep them employed. The housing stock is inadequate and in many instances it is deteriorating. The city is poorly drained. The last city administration narrowed down the canals in the old section of Belize City, and cemented them. It was a costly project that depended heavily on foreign cement and steel. The project expanded the streets on either side of the canals and it is aesthetically pleasing. However, the jury is not in on how much these “improvements” improved the drainage of the city.

The worst scene for the new Mayor of Belize City and the new councilors is violence. Belize City, especially areas on the Southside, is a war zone. Violence, the likes of which has never been seen before, anywhere in the country, has overwhelmed Belize City.

It is inconceivable, unconscionable, that the national government would threaten to pile its venom on the backs of the horses that have been tasked by the people of Belize City to carry this heavy load. But, it has.

The immediate response of the UDP to their loss in Belize City was the old leopard in all its inglorious spots. Wait, before the election was even run, DPM Faber “warned” the nation about the difficulties a municipal government would face if it wasn’t aligned with national government. The day after the election loss in Belize City, PM Barrow spoke about taking care of his party’s own first, and Minister Boots Martinez declared that the city was in for a rough ride. The day after that, the PM went to the House and predicted that Bernard Wagner’s municipal government would FAIL.

Some things in the world are too bad to mek laaf about. Our people are too “cash poor” for this kind of governance from the national executive. The cash-rich Americans can afford to squander financial and human resources. Belize can’t afford that. In Belize, every penny counts, every talent counts.

We cannot expect the national government to do the work of the new municipal government in Belize City. But we can expect the national government to respond to every request of a municipal government that is comprised of members that don’t carry their party card, as it would a municipal government made up of members that wave their flag.

The mouth does speak what the heart is full of. Hope is eternal, so we can hope that some UDP words were uttered in the heat of a disappointed moment. But the UDP has too much history at playing at ugly. They really have to change their stripes. They could use a seance. Find a guru, get on a boat, go somewhere and try at a makeover. Of course, that didn’t work out in anything spectacular the first time it was tried, albeit it was an effort from another party.

Bernard Wagner has spoken. His words say his heart is in the right place. He is not alone. There are others like him, others in the third parties, and the PUP, and the UDP. We must give these lights every chance to shine. We compete for leadership. And then we yield to the will of the people. Belize needs all of us. Belize is for all of us.

Remember, thou are not equal to a European

In my personal, I have many disappointments with the Barrow government. The real of this last one is that it is spent, and all he is doing now is … punish the people. He knows he cannot point to victories in some municipalities in the last elections as an endorsement. Properly, what he should do, he should call his people aside and say, look, I want you to tally up all that you would make legally, and illegally, if we suffocated this nation to the very end of our legal mandate. I am going to make out checks from the national treasury, to all of you. It will cost this country less, much less than if we hold on to power for power’s sake.

There is one disappointment I don’t have with the Barrow governments, and that is the taking back of BTL. I will ignore the details.

One of the big differences between radio and print is that you can pick up print anytime. If you miss a radio show, you have to depend on yeri-soh. For “space” reasons, I have to keep this short. Someone in my home put on Love FM last night (we don’t get Krem Radio in Camalote, so in radio world that Love FM has no rival), just in time for me to hear Troy Gabb and Darrell (Carter), mostly Troy, comment on BTL.

I think I heard Darrell say, Ridiculous! (You know he’ll have to pay for that) I heard Troy run on and on, and then I heard him say, of course, if we had gotten a better deal (BTL reacquisition) the business would be better off. (I paraphrased that) That deserves some comment, but onward ho.

Now, there are boys who study hard and they get “breaks” to go away and study. Some of them continue to study hard and wa, when they look up, their names are on bulletin board. The ones who go to European schools see their names flying high above some students of European origin and they say, My, I am equal to them. Ai, NAÏVE is such a dangerous thing.

If Troy and Darrell (local capitalists) have some belly fat to burn, I’d like them to walk over to Said Musa’s office and put this question to him: Can our PUC regulate a European-controlled BTL? I can save them the trip. The answer is, NO! There are altruistic Europeans, so, to avoid any distraction, we’ll rephrase the question: Can our PUC regulate an Ashcroft-controlled BTL, or any company that he owns? I think the NO becomes even more emphatic.

If I had the space, I would continue this piece with a discussion of Donald Trump, why he acts the way he does. And then I’d get back to capitalist Belizeans who don’t understand how the Europeans roll. Perdón, I have to leave off here, ‘til later, so, just this. It’s a pity that European educated Belizeans didn’t understand the real of things when they got us into bed with Ashcroft. It’s a greater pity that having seen, some Belizeans still don’t get the sense.

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Deshawn Swasey

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