Editorial — 16 February 2016
Social Security $$$ and Santander

If you follow the logic which argues that the Belize Social Security Board (SSB) should lend Belizean workers’ money to the giant foreign Santander corporation because Santander would give that money 7 and 8 percent returns, whereas the local banks give the same money only 2 and 3 percent interest, then we Belizeans should take all of Belize’s money and invest it in foreign corporations, dammit, in Guatemala itself, where there are a thousand Santanders running their economy.

Look, what was the purpose of self-rule and the struggle therefor? Our national heroes, Hon. George Price and Hon. Phillip Goldson, who began political life together in the People’s United Party (PUP) in 1950, both fought for Belizean self-rule. At a certain point in his early leadership of the PUP, Mr. Price began to speak of a “peaceful, constructive revolution.” It is not clear whether he considered that peaceful, constructive revolution as having been born in 1950, when the PUP was founded, or in 1956, when he took personal leadership of that PUP. Mr. Goldson, for his part, was and is famously quoted as follows: “The time to save your country is before you lose it.” We will return later to these two concepts.

At the moment when Belize achieved what was supposedly the ultimate in self-rule – political independence, in September of 1981, Belize instituted a social security scheme. At the time Amandala was a 12-year-old newspaper which had just become the leading weekly in Belize. Following the abolition of slavery in 1838, workers here had always managed to survive any way they could. The society was so small, and relationships between employers and employees so intimate, that it may be argued that Belize was doing a better job of taking care of our unemployed, disabled, and retired workers before 1981 and social security than afterwards. Before 1981, Belize was not known for homeless people sleeping in the streets at night or the other human indicators of social distress which are so numerous on the streets of the old capital in particular. We’re just saying.

Belizean workers had survived without social security. The argument for social security was that there were foreign employers who had entered the Belizean business scene and overall economy who were not providing protective benefits for their workers. The argument against social security was that it would take a huge amount of liquidity out of a small, struggling economy, effectively transferring that valuable liquidity from the efficient private sector to the wasteful public one.

It was always inevitable that elected politicians in Belize would find an excuse to use the social security savings for their own political purposes and projects. The money was too big and it was too accessible. The first major SSB scandal broke in late July of 2004.

Anyway, let us go back to where the Belizean nationalist struggle began. In 1950, the people of Belize decided that this territory, then known as British Honduras, from the Rio Hondo in the north to the Sarstoon in the south, from Half Moon Caye in the east to Benque Viejo del Carmen in the west, should be a territory ruled by the people who considered themselves Belizeans, for the good and welfare of those Belizean people. We Belizeans, in other words, wanted to become a nation. And so, we have. Everything we decide here is supposed to be decided, first and foremost, for the good and welfare of Belizeans.

You are now saying to us that in Belize we do not have anywhere to invest our moneys for production and returns except in initiatives which are owned and controlled by people who are not Belizeans. This is the perfect antithesis to nationalism. In 1968, four years after Belize gained self-government in 1964 and thirteen years before we achieved in dependence in 1981, that antithesis was first proposed in a formal document for all Belizeans to read. The document was called the Seventeen Proposals.

Now, let us return to our second paragraph. On the foundation of this peaceful, constructive revolution, whether such began in 1950 or in 1956, was built an intellectual revolution in 1969. There were three principals in that 1969 revolution – two young attorneys, trained in the United Kingdom, and one young writer, trained in the United States. Twenty years later, in 1989, one of these attorneys betrayed the revolution: he made a deal with the oligarchy of Belize. As a reward for his betrayal, the oligarchy made the attorney, Prime Minister of Belize. An abiding problem for the nation of Belize has been that the revolutionary principles of the PUP have been betrayed from 1989 forward.

The United Democratic Party, even as its National Party (NP) and National Independence Party (NIP) predecessors, has never been a creative party. The UDP has always been a reactionary party, responding to the revolutionary energies of the PUP. Analysis and defence of this argument would require a lengthy paper. Please allow us to proceed, however.

The UDP replaced the PUP in 2008 because the PUP went awry. That the PUP had gone awry was the considered, manifest opinion of the masses of the Belizean people. The UDP has remained in power for three consecutive terms because, we propose, the betrayer went on to subvert the will of the people as expressed in a PUP leadership convention in March of 2008.

The implications of the Santander investment are probably sinister for the landowning cane farmers of our Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. The Tower Hill sugar factory and the expanded sugar cane industry of the North constituted the single greatest industrial accomplishment of Mr. Price’s peaceful, constructive revolution. The introduction of Santander’s completely corporate version of the sugar industry in the Cayo District means that the UDP Government of Belize is now partnering with a concept which unabashedly elevates profits above human beings. This was precisely what Mr. Price and his PUP wanted to avoid back then in the 1960s.

In 1969, the same year this newspaper began, with pennies, nickels, and dimes subscribed by supporters of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD), two other noteworthy business developments took place. Karl H. Menzies began his own import commission business, built on the importation of Heineken beer from the Netherlands. And, the Belize Brewing Company, bottlers of Belikin beer and stout, received their first development concession from the Government of Belize. If the physical boundaries of Belize did not exist, neither the Karl H. Menzies company or the Belize Brewing Company could compete with the giants in Guatemala. Nationalism has not only benefited the humble cane farmers in the North: nationalism enabled the Menzies and Bowen businesses. Think well this day, our brothers and sisters of the oligarchy.

Power to the people. Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.

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