Belize City, March 17, 2020:— Wow!! Today is very interesting to be alive. In Belize, our economy has tanked – It’s in an official recession – agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism are all in decline. Meanwhile, a coronavirus (COVID-19) is threating to kill millions, is already destroying the global economy and has become the trigger to bring down the global financial system. As at Monday, the pneumonia outbreak has infected 167,000 persons globally with 3,218 dead in China, 1809 in Italy, 852 in Iran, 77 in South Korea, and 292 in Spain; or a death total of 3,170 persons outside of China. Panic buying is now occurring in Belize, Hong Kong, Germany, Italy, Australia, and most other cities in the world. The items disappearing from supermarket shelves are hand wipes, toilet paper, surgical masks, canned foods, and others.
Two things are happening at the same time, which makes the current situation so dangerous. The citizens of the world are facing a global pandemic and at the same time the collapse of the global financial system. The last time these two horsemen of the Apocalypse came together was in Eurasia from the years 1340–1500.
For the last 40 years, this writer has been educating Belizeans about the difference between the British and American School or Political Economy of Capitalism. In past articles some eight fundamental differences were highlighted. Indeed, that great American, Alexander Hamilton, who created the American System, based it on the revolutionary premise that a sovereign government must be responsible for assuring the “general welfare” of the population, not necessarily by owning the means of production, but by assuring that the people and the entrepreneurs have access to water, power, transportation, education, cheap finance, and health care.
When I say the current financial system is collapsing, it means the financial system put in place since 1971 by the City of London and Wall Street – the floating exchange rate system of speculation and gambling, is collapsing – the neoliberal system of austerity, privatization, free trade and globalization is collapsing.
This past Sunday, US President Trump called an unprecedented press conference to announce that the US Fed was going to lower interest rates to 0.25%, or near zero. Wow! Free money! Plus, the US Fed would be able to buy toxic assets from the banks. A bailout! But Monday (March 16th), the New York market wanted more. Much more. The huge (USD $ 1.2 quadrillion) derivatives were blowing out. The dam had burst. This crazy speculation and the gutting of the great capacity of the once great America was destroyed by the self-destruction of production –agriculture and manufacturing.
Some 36 years ago, our Belize was well on its way to high tech agriculture and manufacturing, but the same forces who destroyed the United States were at work in Belize. Little by little, the FIRE (finance, insurance and real estate) sector took over the economy, such that the overhead imposed on our economy was close to 36% by 2018. In the United States, it is some 40%. It just has to blow. The FIRE sector is too greedy. At 40% overheads, production slowly dies, and with it living standards, and then the Horsemen of the Apocalypse come in the form of pandemics.
Yesterday, Monday, the Prime Minister of Belize and the Leader of the Opposition held a joint press conference to announce certain measures for when the COVID-19 puts its hooks in Belize. As at March 16, 2020, Belize had no cases of COVID-19. Belize has a population of some 400,000 persons. Health persons believed that about 100,000 Belizeans will in the next year be infected with the c-virus. Of this amount some 6%, or 6,000 persons, will die. According to the press conference Belize is trying to get prepared. Buying test kits, ventilators, masks, cover garments and some drugs. The government will create, borrow and spend about $ 75 million over the next 3 months or so; but only spend 10% or less on COVID-19. The rest? To bail out the bankrupt FIRE sector.
Most of the money will be spent to bail out the local bankers. Very little, if any, money will be spent on the most vulnerable sector of Belize’s population – the workers and lumpen proletariat (roots people). The tourism sector is collapsing in Belize today. No ships. No overnight tourists. Little restaurant traffic. Some 19,000 workers will be affected. Belize City as at March 16th already has more than 2,000 workers without a job. But little help for them, but mucho help for the foreign owners and their creditors, the foreign bankers. But if neoliberals are in charge, what to expect?
At the press conference, several media houses asked pointedly if the nationally owned electricity and water companies will find a way to help Belizeans, especially the workers who are already unemployed and the soon-to-be-fired workers. But the solution has eluded our political leaders. Private shareholder interests have priority.
Last year Belize imported about $ 2 billion dollars’ worth of goods and exported some $ 400 million, leaving a trade deficit of $ 1.6 billion dollars. We made up the difference by foreign investment, foreign loans, illegal activities like drugs and money laundering, and tourism. Tourism has now disappeared, and we are left with a hole of about $ 400 million. Which finger will plug that hole?
If the health people are correct, Belize will need at least capacity for 200 patients at any time in ICU’s. We have a current capacity for 8 persons. And those tests from PAHO, Roche, etc. are worthless. They are testing for RNA based on PCR cycles. A few months ago, the Chinese suspected something was wrong with those tests, so they decided to make their own test for COVID-19. The invented their own test and gave the design, etc. to the world for free to help humankind. An American company in North Carolina named BioMedonics is now making the Chinese tests. They are about 99% accurate, and give a result in 15 minutes or less using blood, not swabs. But in our little Belize, we are so full of hate and foolishness, we want nothing to do with China and feel the bacra man knows everything – a ground god. Belizeans, wake up. China had over 80,000 cases and they conquered it in less than 2–3 months, by using science, political will for the welfare of the common man/woman, and an open mind. Hong Kong last week gave away test kits developed in China to 40 countries in Africa for free.
Belizeans, don’t worry. Yes, COVID-19 will come to Belize. When? In time. It is spread like the common cold/flu. Your immune system, if strong, will fight it and defeat it. But if you lose your job and cannot buy healthy foods, your immune system will be compromised and you will get very sick and maybe die. One good thing, the junk foods will soon run out at the shops and supermarkets. Our foreign exchange is running low, very low, so imports of junk will become a problem.
Now that two of the horsemen of the Apocalypse are near to our Belize it is time to throw out the axioms of the neoliberal thinking and turn to the greatest system of capitalism. To what was known in the nineteenth century as the American System of Alexander Hamilton, Abe Lincoln, Henry Carey and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
First, no citizen of Belize must go hungry. The 2,000 persons who have lost their jobs in tourism must get a wage. They have to eat. They are human beings made in the image of the Creator. Jobs must be created at once. Our political leaders are going to create about $ 20 million of new money to bail out foreign bankers. Crazy!!
If we pay the 2,000 just-fired workers $ 250 per week for 6 months, it will be $ 12 million dollars. Now please understand, no one will be given money as a hand-out. They have to work. Most of them can do trade work. Belize has to build at least two hospitals with at least 200 capacity ICU units. Some of the 2,000 can be employed there in the construction and as staff.
And soon there will be another 4,000 or so workers who lose an income from tourism. We can set up small factories to employ at least 6,000 from making real fruit juices, to making surgical masks, to making electric wire and plastic goods, to producing simple steel for construction. Most small factories will take about 4 to 6 months to be established.
Belize imports about $ 20 million worth of “unhealthy” cooking oil/fats every year. Belize is blessed with the best oil God has made for human consumption – coconut oil. Why can’t we save that $ 20 million dollars and produce our own oil and save not only valuable foreign exchange but employ our own citizens and make our population healthy?
Let’s call a spade a spade. There is at March 16th NO COVID-19 virus in Belize. Our political leaders have committed us to borrow and beg about $ 40 million, move $ 15 million around in the new budget and create new money of about $ 20 million – a total of $ 75 million dollars. Now we have about 2,000 workers who were fired from the tourism sector over the weekend. And over the next month or so another 4,000 will lose their jobs, income. None, not one cent of the $ 75 million will be spent to employ or support those 2,000 plus 4,000 workers. Then we will fire at Ports of Belize some waterfront workers. By the end of April 2020 about 8,000 or more Belizeans will lose their income, their livelihood.
This is not just a financial collapse, but a collapse of the physical economy. Plus, the almost certain death of over 6,000 of our fellow Belizeans because of the wrong policies. The economy that feeds us, clothes us, and houses us is collapsing before our very eyes. There will be a huge social explosion in this country. Do they expect Chester and the police to cope with this blowout? Our political leaders are set in their neoliberal mind-set, neglecting the real world. It was made very clear yesterday at the press conference that the vast majority of the $ 75 million dollars is to bail out the corrupt bankrupt financial sector of Belize. Little if any will be spent on the COVID-19. In fact, the COVID-19 is a cover to bail out the rotten FIRE sector: that’s why we need a financial genius. Everyone in Belize knows that one of the commercial banks is facing problems. They are afraid of what they call contagion. But the fired workers? Well!
The COVID-19 when it comes to Belize will most likely stay for perhaps a year or more. It is time for a new paradigm. The only solution is if our political leaders throw out the axioms of the neoliberal model with its emphasis on monetarist, i.e. speculators’, profits. So, we must produce not only what we eat, but what we wear, and how we are housed.
Soon you will hear about the agriculture sector collapsing because of drought. BULL! The solution is stop mining the soil and feed the soil with the proper nutrients and at the same time build permanent canals to put on and take off fresh water when needed. And you will need some 3,000 workers to build the canals. Jobs, Jobs. Easy to create. No? Then tell the people why you are against their interests!
The new emphasis must be the absolute value of human life, the principles of science, and solidarity with the entire family of mankind. This means that the physical economy comes first. And the independence of Belize is always first.
Create a Renaissance in Belize NOW.