The other day, a friend of mine whom I’ve always admired, someone I’d call a mentor, it would embarrass him that I hold him in such high esteem, made a comment that made me step back and think. He said that most Belizeans don’t realize how rich Belize is, and that most of the wealth is in the hands of a few Belizeans, and of course, the foreigners who have seen the potential, have taken advantage of our naïveté, to enrich themselves at our expense. He mentioned the ports, as an example, and we could run through a list of so much of our wealth that has been legally, in most cases, appropriated and expanded upon. One of the most blatant abusers of our innocence and generosity is the lord, small L! Not only has he taken advantage of the Belizean people, but in so many ways, he holds us hostage to his insatiable appetite for more wealth. Whenever we try to curb his enthusiasm, he goes to court to get a favorable ruling in his favor, and usually succeeds! This, from a man who claims his love for this country, yet does everything in his power to stymie our efforts to be masters of our own destiny!
I blame the government of both parties for this lopsided, unequal distribution of our wealth, our natural resources, the Central Americanization of Belize, where usually 10 to 12 families own 75% of a country’s wealth, and the rest is in the hands of foreigners, mostly carpetbaggers! This redistribution began in earnest in the early 1980s, with the new UDP government encouraging investments, both foreign and domestic, and has continued with a vengeance from government to government! I’m sure that their intentions were honorable at the time, that they wanted prosperity for their people, and the economic and social development of our newborn, independent state. But it quickly went off tracks, all those plans for a better Belize! It went off tracks because of poor planning, greed and corruption, and because we, the people, were not prepared for barbarians at the gate!
Our educational system failed us because it was a colonial system, teaching us colonial truths! We had more pride in the British Empire than we had for little Belize! We didn’t know our history, our heritage, so we squandered it all away, for pennies. Now we look back and see that our properties that we gave away for a few thousand dollars are being resold for millions, by the marauders that we let in, willingly! We were not taught in our schools to know our value, where we came from, how rich we were, how lucky we were to live in this Jewel of ours. If we had been, we would’ve treated it like our own secret garden, cherished and nourished it, and fed ourselves off our lands. Instead, we are importers of most of what we eat! Such a shame!
Looking back, we needed visionaries who could’ve slowed us down. Who could’ve made sure that we were prepared for independence, by allowing our institutions to teach and mold us into proud citizens, to understand our history, our genesis as a people, brown and black! The few who spoke out were drowned out by false promises of wealth and prosperity, from governments that were already dreaming of sugarplums and fairies, and which for most of us, were, and still are, just pipe dreams! There is a little sliver of hope right now, with some in this new government trying to reclaim our country, to hold on to our treasures, and the natural beauty, that is Belize!