On Wednesday, November 11, the people spoke with their ballots in the 9th general election since independence, and their decision is that the party of George Price, the People’s United Party, will lead us for the next five years. At this moment the euphoria is still high in the winning camp, but in the days ahead they will be sobered when they grasp the enormity of the task before them. If they don’t know already, no government before them has had a heavier load to carry.
We expect the PUP will let out a howl when they have a sit down with the Financial Secretary, Mr. Joe Waight, and they get the full picture of all the slippage and wastage in the last administration, and worst of all, the bare treasury. The UDP spent 13 years making good political mileage over the extravagant PUP borrowing in their 1998-2008 administrations, and the resulting Super Bond and what it has done to our economy, and so we expect the new government will pummel the UDP over their mismanagement of our resources.
God forbid that we find ourselves in another extended period of listening to our government blame the other side while our economy languishes, and our governance systems are trampled.
In George Price’s epic poem he said that building is a task for giants, that little people tried and turned away when they recognized the enormity of the job, and for this monumental task before us the people have put their faith in the hands of the PUP. It is the people’s hope that they will not prove to be weak.
The new government must set out immediately to contain COVID-19. Every week the pandemic worsens in our country, and if we don’t arrest the disease now, it will become uncontrollable. Containing COVID-19 is not just about being free of disease. No new measure the government puts in place will have a positive impact on the economy if this disease has us in its grip.
The new government must immediately begin putting in the measures they believe will improve our economy over the long term, but in the short term they must make a special effort to feed our people. Everyone knows the new government doesn’t have a magic wand it can wave to create the thousands of jobs, good jobs, we need, but we can provide for the basic needs of our people. We have the land and the knowledge; if we have the will we can provide plentiful, wholesome food now.
The new government must move to deliver on all its promises to make our governance system transparent and accountable. The PUP has a super majority today, but they will find that if they don’t include the people by strengthening the checks and balances in the system — the PAC, the Auditor General’s Office, the Contractor General’s Office, the Integrity Commission, and the Senate — their popularity will disappear quickly. We were once a patient people, but we’ve been betrayed too many times.
In the next five years the party must fix the economy; deliver the jobs; make housing affordable; improve the health system; make academic and vocational education more affordable, especially for the sons and daughters of less well-off Belizeans; provide land for those who don’t have; and most importantly, it must oversee a complete victory at the ICJ.
Both major parties had good manifestos, and there is much good in the manifestos of the third parties that contested the election too, the BPP’s particularly, and while the PUP must immediately set about fulfilling the promises they made in their excellent “Plan Belize”, it is part of the story of our failure to date that we chuck away all that is good that comes from the rest of us. The new government can and should draw from the manifestos of the other parties, for the good of all of us.
Our people have been suffering a long time, and it is for sure the PUP doesn’t have a magic wand — would that they did, to wave away the pain of deprivation, the sadness in the hearts of the people over the many broken promises of leaders who were dishonest or incapable of delivering on their promises.
Those new leaders who are well-off, it must not be that your victory is used by you and your family as a launching pad to catapult yourselves into the circle of the capitalist elite in our region. Those new leaders who are not that well-off, our country pays you a fair salary and gives you substantial benefits, so you should be sufficiently content to grow along with us. As you grow the economy, there will be more for the people, and when the people have more, you will be rewarded for your excellent work.
On Wednesday, November 11, the people decided that all of us deserve “fi win”, and now we depend on our leaders to work hard to deliver what they promised.