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Economics and migration

Some people have said that politics is “the art of the possible.” Clausewitz opined that war is an extension of politics by other means. Both politics and war are built on the foundation of economics, which has to do with how human beings use the resources in their surroundings to feed, clothe, house, educate, recreate, and protect themselves.

The settlement of Belize began as an exercise in predatory economics, which is to say, piracy. The European pirates who took refuge here inside the Barrier Reef later became entrepreneurial. They began to cut down logwood trees (later mahogany) and ship the logs to markets in Great Britain. By the time of mahogany, their market began to include cities in the United States.

As we look at the dysfunctional black youth of Belize City today, it is important to remember that their ancestors were brought to these shores as slaves precisely because of their working ability in the forestry and forestry-related industries of the settlement. Our ancestors were brought here in chains by European pirates who were becoming entrepreneurs. Our ancestors built this country.

By the middle of the twentieth century, when the People’s United Party (PUP) was established, the forests of the settlement (then known as the colony of British Honduras) had been depleted to the point where the smart money began to believe that the country’s future lay in agriculture and agro-industries.

In the mid-1950s, the British allowed American oil companies to use dynamite for oil exploration inside the Barrier Reef, but the vast majority of our population knew nothing about this. Only a few local fishermen saw what was happening. By the early 1960s the oil exploration definitely featured the Gulf and Phillips petroleum companies, and we think it is reasonable to speculate that the 1962 Anglo-Guatemalan dispute conference in Puerto Rico in 1962, the first time elected Belizean leaders were invite to participate, may have been related to the discovery of petroleum deposits in Belize.

With Belize becoming a self-governing colony in January 1964, the ruling PUP having won all 18 seats in the House of Representatives in 1961 in the first general elections held under a new Ministerial constitution, the PUP was going full speed ahead with probably the most important economic initiative of their pre-independence rule – expansion and modernization of the sugar industry in the Northern Districts of Corozal and Orange Walk, and land acquisition/land reform to involve Belizean cane farmers in the sugar industry in a meaningful and dignified way. The expanded and modernized sugar industry attracted working class Belizeans from all the other Districts.

Inside Belize City, which was the colonial capital, the administrative center, the population center, and the dominant urban reality where secondary schools, hospitals, banks, and other facilities were located, there was almost no interest in agriculture. The Belize City population’s response to the decline in forestry and new emphasis on agriculture was to begin migrating to the major cities of the United States. These Belizeans became Americans.

In the early 1970s, a movement of Central Americans began into Belize, and that movement became a flood in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with the encouragement and financial assistance of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The Central Americans were at home in the cane fields, the citrus orchards, and the banana plantations of Belize. They acquired land, and educated their children in Belize’s schools. They became Belizeans.

By the time of Belize’s independence in 1981, a peaceful, but well-orchestrated, transformation of Belize’s ethnic makeup had taken place. Belize was no longer the black majority country it had been for perhaps three centuries. We do not know of any such scheme which has been implemented anywhere else in our lifetime without violence and war. So well-orchestrated had been the scheme in Belize that there had never come any real noise from the black majority which had become a minority, for Central American immigration to be balanced by Caribbean immigration into Belize. Things have gone very smoothly indeed for the designers of Belize’s scheme.

With the first change of government in the universal suffrage era, from the PUP to the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1984, tourism began to become a priority. This had not been the case during the leadership of Rt. Hon. George Price from 1961 to 1984. Subsequent governments in Belize, both PUP and UDP, have increased Belize’s commitment to tourism to the point where, in June of 2016, it has probably become our most important industry.

The most significant move in education made by the new UDP, on their coming to power in 1984, was the immediate dismantling of BELCAST, the PUP experiment in tertiary education which had given some pride of place to science and technology. A new University College of Belize (UCB) took BELCAST’s place, and UCB placed inordinate emphasis on business administration and tourism hospitality training. The economic die had been cast with respect to Belize’s future: tourism had been chosen to rule.

It would appear today that the economic development philosophy in Belize is represented by the American Sugar Refining (ASR), Santander, and Norwegian Cruise Lines investments. These investments are in line with Guatemala’s economic model, which is dominated by huge transnational corporations employing cheap, unskilled domestic labor.

If you think about it, Belize is becoming more and more like Guatemala with every passing day. This is as the future was first presented to Belizeans with Bethuel Webster’s Seventeen Proposals in 1968. The ratcheting up of Guatemalan aggression against Belize in the Chiquibul and on the Sarstoon is having the effect of waking up the sleeping giant which Belize’s diaspora population represents. The impatience of the Guatemalan oligarchy/military to seize the riches of Belize may end up having a result which is the opposite of the annexation dream of the republic’s oligarchy/military.

Changes in the Belizean economy which began at the middle of the twentieth century were not matched by adjustments in Belize’s education system. Hence, to repeat, a mass migration to American cities of working class blacks occurred. The modern Belizean economy, however, is one with which diaspora Belizean blacks, trained in the American job market, may be relatively confortable. More and more diaspora Belizeans are looking back home with some longing.

At the same time, the Hispanic demographic majority and economic powerhouse in Belize has not flexed its muscles politically to the extent that such a flexing may be possible. One reason for this may be the fact that English remains the official language in Belize. This is a subject which overall requires careful analysis. At a time when blacks have become a dwindling population minority, their political faces are more visible than ever before. How you figure? Goldson is dead, and Guatemala City and Washington are happy with the third millennium leadership in Belize. Something does not make sense.

Power to the people!

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