Given President Trump’s campaign rhetoric, his conservative agenda, his majority control over both Congress and the Senate, and his penchant for antagonizing even his friends and supporters, it is not surprising that there is a seismic shift in his relations with the world as he takes the reins of power; these range from undermining the current USA-Cuba rapprochement, to downsizing the USA military presence in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, to renegotiating international trade agreements, to reneging on commitments to climate change accords, to acrimonious disputes with Mexico over the “Wall,” to beginning the process of deporting those over 11 million “illegal, criminal aliens.”
These developments, to the extent they are implemented will, of course, generate their own set of reactions, some positive, some negative, from the rest of the world. Cuba, for instance, is already mobilizing its forces, Mexico is beginning to “talk back” (although the government of that country does not appear to be in sync with its people,) the EU is weighing its options, Japan and the Far East are watching and waiting, and our little countries are waiting for the “b…h lick” to come crashing on our backs.
I suggest we don’t’ need to wait! We need to be proactive, ahead of the curve and bring tomorrow today! How?
1. Prepare for the onslaught of deportees.
Already this is a phenomenon we have trouble coping with right now, and it’s about to get worse.
Many of these new deportees will be law-abiding Belizeans who will get caught in the stepped-up deportation initiatives, but they will still need to be absorbed in our society and shrinking economy. Hopefully, some will bring some level of financial independence, even for a while, and some entrepreneurial acumen; however, eventually some will fall by the wayside and increase our unemployment statistics. On a parallel track, criminal deportees will swell the ranks of the unemployed immediately and could contribute to our rising criminality.
How do we prepare?
This is not an easy task in these troubling times, but we could begin by investing more in our municipal and village governments for social programs and less on these capital intensive infrastructure projects that benefit only a chosen few. This would immediately create more job opportunities at the local levels and create a multiplier effect.
We could also think of lowering the GST rate and allow no exceptions as several economists and MBAs have suggested; this would immediately widen the tax base, increase government revenue and incentivize the private sector; of course, we can also begin to collect unpaid and delinquent taxes and tighten up on revenue collection.
We may have to empty the Hattieville Ramada of many of our young, bright boys who have been picked up or criminalized for nothing more than a little stick of weed to house the new, more hardened criminal element being deported.
2. Embrace the entrepreneurial talent
Already we hear of the Canadian Website being inundated with queries; sure, we are not Canada but, definitely, a beacon of light that can attract some notice.The USA, if nothing else, is business-oriented, highly competitive and profit motivated…characteristics our business community needs more of and our government severely lacks. There will be thousands of highly skilled, experienced entrepreneurs, small business operators (many with their own capital) from the USA who will be looking for countries to relocate and invest in. Why not Belize?
For this to happen, our public sector must come out of the Dark Ages and modernize! Our tax code is old and broken, our policies (and politics) still favor the mercantile community, the agro/industrial sector is reeling and needs radical surgery, our investment support mechanisms such as computerization, mechanization and human resources need to be strengthened and enhanced. Some of these issues require long-term vision and policies.
• Our embassies and consulates in the USA (and, indeed, elsewhere) need to begin earning their keep and send investors this way.
• Our tourism website must begin to more aggressively promote Belize as an investment mecca, and not only for tourism.
• Our frontline public (Customs, Immigration, Agriculture, BELTRAIDE, Economic Development, Natural Resources,) and private sector officers must be more investor-friendly, public relations savvy.
• Our propaganda machine (Press Office) must promote Belize as THE place to invest in.
3. Welcome home our Belizeans from the Diaspora
This should be the easiest one as those Belizeans voluntarily coming home, though not all doing so for the right reasons, are in the majority well-trained, experienced in the business or public sector, bring an entrepreneurial culture (as against our typical “buy and sell” mentality), some bring their own finances and, first and foremost, are Belizeans and love Belize.
We should make it easy for these people to settle in by facilitating them with the relocation incentive packages now in place, by providing them with special investment privileges and tolerate (to a certain degree) some of their bombastic attitudes…in the interests of Belize.
4. Economic citizenship?
Many USA citizens will be seeking a place to relocate, in which to invest and, perhaps, become nationalized.
This is going up a slippery slope as our experiences in this endeavor have been quite unpleasant, controversial and riddled with corruption. It is, however, no doubt a cash cow that, if properly and cleanly managed, can help the economy.
This topic has left so much bad taste in so many people’s mouths that it merits much more discussion and consultations.
Carlos G. Santos
615-2101; [email protected]