In this age of proliferating nuclear weapons and international terrorism, it is more true today than at any previous time in humankind’s history that no one knows what tomorrow will bring. We human beings live from day to day, and for the vast majority of us that life involves fighting for survival.
Over the past weekend, Belize Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Dean Barrow, and his two key financial advisors, Financial Secretary, Joe Waight, and Economic Ambassador, Mark Espat, flew to New York City for the second time in a week to see what they can do about restructuring the nation’s superbond payments.
This newspaper is honored to be the leading such publication in the nation of Belize, and this has been so for the last 35 years. The editorial is a weighty exercise in this newspaper, and we do not take it lightly. At the same time, we all understand that what Belizeans enjoy of constitutional democracy here concentrates power in the hands of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and its executive Cabinet. At the end of the proverbial day, this newspaper’s editorials, then, are of no constitutional consequence or value, except when they spark some thought in the minds of the Belizean people, or in the minds of some important group of Belizean people, such as our teachers.
In Belize’s constitutional democracy, to repeat, the matter of political power is primary. We have pointed out before that in Belize there is an enormous difference between being in political power and being in Opposition. The UDP has been in power for going on nine years now, having won three consecutive general elections. The UDP has won those general elections by presenting to the voters of Belize a platform of programs which gained a majority of the votes cast in February of 2008, March of 2012, and November of 2015.
When the UDP first returned to power in February of 2008, after ten years in Opposition, it was understood by all and sundry that Belize was in a financial predicament because of having borrowed a lot of money during the two Said Musa/Ralph Fonseca terms of the People’s United Party (PUP) between 1998 and 2008. Thanks to the brave sacrifices of a dissident element of seven PUP Cabinet Ministers in August of 2004, Belize’s financial predicament did not become as bad as it might have become. But, it was bad.
Today, that financial predicament is substantially worse, and the reason it is so is because the UDP politicians, in their nine years of pursuing re-election after re-election, could never bring themselves to administer any castor oil to the Belizean people. They were not courageous enough to read the riot act to Belizeans. They were and are electoral politicians, after all, and the core of their business involves telling voters what they want to hear, and basically allowing the people to do what they feel like doing.
It would seem that worst case scenario for the UDP leaders was never default: worst case scenario was always a return to power by the PUP. To prevent a PUP return to power, it was always necessary to pleasure the UDP base, or so the UDP leadership reasoned. In the unforgettable words of Mark King, “UDP first, Belizeans second, and PUP last.”
It has now become immediately inevitable that the ruling UDP will choke the taxpayers of Belize even more, because bills have to be paid to Belize’s creditors, bills which were incurred by the PUP between 1998 and 2008, in the first instance, but bills which were increased by the UDP because their leadership placed the welfare of the party and its base ahead of the national good of Belize.
The problem is systemic. Electoral success is the raison d’etre of both the UDP and the PUP: that is why they exist, to put it in English. To achieve said electoral success, the political party must please the voters. To please the voters, you have to spend money on them, even when the national treasury cannot afford it. Thus, the national debt has just grown worse and worse, and the proverbial bottom line is that it really doesn’t matter whether the UDP or the PUP is in office. Belize has been living a lie. The chickens have come home to roost.
Increased taxes and a shrinking economy mean more suffering amongst the masses of the people, and these always translate to more crime and violence. This is a very bad situation.
There is a difference between today’s stress and the pressure of colonial days. The difference is that in colonial days the Belizean people basically bonded together where our daily lives were concerned. We did try to “show ourselves” as individuals and as families, but overall we were a sharing people. In colonial days, the Belizean people had a socialist concept of life. Some would call this concept a Christian one. You have to read the New Testament for yourself, beloved.
Today, we are completely capitalist, which is to say, we are individualistic and selfish. We are totally dedicated to consumerism, almost to the point of hedonism. Our political leaders set the trend for us, incidentally. They live large. When the bottom drops out of the macro economic bucket, all the large livers will do is hire more security, requisition more cops. The rest of us will fight it out amongst ourselves. In fighting for our individual and family survival, our brothers and sisters will have to become our enemies. It’s different today from colonial days: in colonial days, our brothers and sisters were our friends.
There are generation of Belizeans today who have no individual or collective memory of when things were different in our communities and our society. Trump’s deportees will only make it worse, because they are seasoned in the vicious American ethos which is really at the root of our problem. Belizeans were united trying to survive under British colonialism. Under American imperialism, however, we think we have a chance to get big individually. We have a chance to live a dream. In pursuit of that chance and that dream, we have been rolling the dice whenever and wherever. The thing is, in any casino, there are always far more losers than there are winners. So who buries the dead when all of us are fighting each other for survival?
Power to the people.