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Home Editorial 2022 is here. Stay sweet, Belize!

2022 is here. Stay sweet, Belize!

“Stay as sweet as you are… don’t let a thing ever change you…” — Nat King Cole

Sun. Jan. 2, 2022

The New Year in Belize started with a glorious, sunshine morning, with a fresh southeasterly breeze, and clear blue sky… what a day! What a day for the outdoors, for going to the country or the cayes, for “fun and games” of all sorts! And then we commenced the action with the exciting Krem New Year’s Day Cycling Classic, “from the border to the boulevard,” coming to us live and in living color via Krem Radio and TV, as well as from Andrew Ordonez’s Facebook page, through which, from his motorcycle, he gave his personal live commentaries. “Belize nice,” indeed (Leroy “Base” Castillo); and although all the Covid-19 restrictions couldn’t deter some of the cycling faithful from drawing near to the Boulevard FINISH line, they were still hampered from the traditional outpouring of affection we as a people have become accustomed to on these occasions. We sure need to be free from this pandemic, so we can loosen up again, and start giving each other those big Belizean hugs we’ve all been missing. Nevertheless, with the many ups and downs, the hard times and struggles, Belize is still a little paradise, and our warm and friendly people are as much an integral part of the Belize experience as the crystal Caribbean waters or the lush green forests and sparkling waterfalls. Tourism has become a major part of our economy, and while there may be threats to the “Belizean product” from within and without, in the final analysis it comes down to us, the Belizean people, to decide if we will face and overcome those challenges to preserve this precious Jewel for future generations of Belizeans.

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt us a hard blow for almost two years now, but we are not giving up. A majority of citizens have taken the vax, and more and more are getting “the sense” of what’s best for protecting their health and that of their loved ones, and abiding by the prevention rules of masking, social distancing and hand-washing/sanitizing. While we brace ourselves for the impending invasion of the crazy-spreading Omicron variant, and need to do our best to avoid overwhelming our hospitals with too many Covid patients, we can hold on to the hope that it might just be the last desperate thrust of this terrible disease, before it gradually fades away into becoming just a traditional, non-lethal flu. That will be the day! But until then, we have to keep the pressure on, do everything we can to prevent infection, until that day comes when our health authorities can finally announce the “All Clear.”

The new Government has been doing its part their first year in office. Not perfect; they have made some mistakes, but they have accomplished a lot in a short time and under very difficult circumstances, of course with the support and quiet sacrifice of public officers and other citizens. There have been strides in agriculture, in land distribution, housing and infrastructure, and the so-called “Blue Economy”, where conservation efforts have dovetailed nicely with servicing our debt obligations while enhancing our tourism product, tourism being still a major plank in the overall Belizean economy. And it may be in the area of tourism that the Belizean people can lend the biggest hand in ensuring the growth and sustainability of this industry which can benefit all Belizeans; but it will take a keen eye from Government to make that a reality.

Crime and violence, particularly murders, have increased across the globe as societies endure the economic impact of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 protocols; and Belize is no exception. Besides, we had a serious violence and murder problem even before the arrival of Covid-19. But we are small, and our economy still depends heavily on tourism. And in Belize, unlike the mighty USA, there are no “unemployment benefits” for young heads of households to satisfy hungry bellies at home; so it is incumbent on government to see that there is fair play in the job market, and that unscrupulous employers are not taking advantage of “illegal immigrants” to the detriment of scores of job-seeking long-time Belizeans. (Normalizing their illegal status won’t help the situation; Government should demand more aid from UNHCR to help sustain refugees in Belize.) The more citizens have a paying job to take home some cash, the more bellies are full, the less tension in all our relationships.

Our social agents and counselors and political representatives need to talk more to our people, to win their hearts and minds toward a new outlook. But “full belly kyahn tell hungry belly fi kip heart”. We must tackle the food/job problem first, for every Belizean. Then we can talk to our people, and then maybe they will listen. Then tell them, that we, WE, all of us are responsible for killing 100 plus Belizeans a year. If you see or hear a brother talking “negative”, and you encourage him to go and do “schupidness”, then you are part of that murder. And if you sit quiet, and don’t try and talk him out of it, it’s the same, because you missed an opportunity to stop another killing. Mothers! Fathers! Brothers! Sisters! We can turn Belize around and stop the murders, if each of us, whenever we see it developing, speak to our son, daughter, brother, sister or friend, and show them why “i no mek no sense”. We the people can save Belize, turn this madness around; but each one of us has to do our part. When another murder happens, WE did it. Too many times a troubled soul is crying out for “someone to stop me”; but no one shows the love and courage to say, “i no mek sense, bro”; there is a better way. And when the awful deed is done, two lives are destroyed, the killer and the dead. And the net effect of it all is more sadness in our community and bad business for our tourism.

Celebrities from all over the world have come to our shores to enjoy the wonderful climate, the privacy, the awesome natural beauty, and the warmth and genuineness of the Belizean people. Those who are benefiting the most from the tourism product need to be aware, or be made aware, that the widening gap between rich and poor is bad for the future of the industry, because crime will continue to escalate. Where there is tremendous wealth in plain view of the desperate poor, the situation could become explosive.

Our Prime Minister has expressed his concern about the threat of narco-trafficking, noting that because of the tremendous amount of wealth the cartels possess, they could expand their influence over the country, in effect creating a drug state in certain areas, like they have done in parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But P.M. Briceño was hopeful that we are different, in his words, “… because we are small, we have that real love for one another, love for our country, and it is something that we know together that there is no force on earth that can break us…”

For 2022, it would do well if Government made a resolution to see that every Belizean mouth is fed, by any means necessary. After all, our elected government is blessed with the power of taxation. And we, the Belizean people, with full bellies and grateful hearts, can then talk and counsel each other toward peace, against all violence, and stop the senseless murders that have been causing so much sorrow and grief to stifle the joy and happiness in our sweet Belize.

Happy New Year, all!

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