Editorial — 28 September 2012

The United Democratic Party (UDP) won general elections in 2008 and 2012 by focusing on the terrible debt servicing which Belize was having to deal with because of the two terms of People’s United Party (PUP) excess between 1998 and 2008.

The PUP said that what they had done was “grow the economy,” and they extolled the virtues of foreign direct investment (FDI), which was the reason why they had been so chummy with Lord Michael Ashcroft and why they had given him so many tax breaks, they argued.

As the UDP continued to lament the burden of the so-called superbond, the Francis Fonseca PUP argued that the Belizean debt could readily be serviced if only the UDP would “grow the economy” at a rate of 4 percent, say. And, with Lord Ashcroft waging an anti-UDP administration campaign at home, regionally, and all over the world, the PUP chimed in with the claim that the UDP was anti-business, and that they were driving away all the much-desired, indispensable even, FDI.

Well, at this newspaper we have been saying that there is no real philosophical difference between the UDP and the PUP. It’s all about personalities, and what coincides with their political expediency at any given moment. Listening to the House meeting this Wednesday, one had to shake one’s head listening to Musa/Fonseca railing about a large foreign investment (American Sugar Refining) in the Belizean sugar industry, because the UDP government was giving too many tax concessions to the American transnational company, they said, and because the American transnational was so gigantic it was dangerous to Belizeans.

To be truthful, we don’t know all the nuts and bolts of Belize’s sugar industry. We know that the 6,000 cane farmers of the Northern Districts are hard-working and productive, and we know they have been saying that it is they, the cañeros, who should be allowed to take over the company, Belize Sugar Industries (BSI), which owns the factory which mills the cane the farmers grow. The thing is, BSI has been experiencing critical liquidity problems for a few years now, and while the cañeros have solidarity, they too lack liquidity.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow argued on Wednesday in the House that he had to give the American company the tax concessions and exemptions because he needed somebody to bail out BSI by the end of this month, or the sugar industry would collapse. Whew!

The PUP leaders and Northern District area representatives said that Barrow was moving too fast, that the cane farmers had not been consulted because of the Prime Minister’s haste and secrecy, and that the American company, because of all the tax concessions and the fact that they would be taking over BSI’s 3,000 acres of cane fields, would be in unfair competition with Belizean cañeros.

When the major party politicians get ahold of any issue, sometimes things get so contentious and confusing that all we, the people, can do is wait and watch how the chips fall down the road. In the matters of BSI, the American investor company, and the domestic sugar industry, the most trenchant thing we can say is that this is why accountants get paid all the money they get paid. They are the ones who “crunch the numbers,” as it is said in financial jargon. And this deal, at its core, is a financial decision, a roll of the dice.

The PUP got so worked up with defending their precious Lord Ashcroft and their precious Stan Marshall, they forgot that Prime Minister Barrow has no ideology or binding set of beliefs. He has no definitive philosophy where political economy is concerned. So, suddenly the nationalizer of Belize’s telecommunications and electricity distribution, is opening up sugar to the big boys out there in FDI land. There is no pattern, no consistency, only expediency.

And finally, in good faith, we think that it is time for Said Musa to go to political pasture. The former socialist who went completely neoliberal capitalist when he was in power, is now condemning FDI in the sugar industry. Who are you really, Mr. Musa? What do you believe in? What seek ye?

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