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Home Editorial Check your compass, Blue Captain

Check your compass, Blue Captain

Sun. Jan. 9, 2022

An important piece of equipment for sea goers, especially on long voyages, is a compass, because when a bad storm hits, with heavy showers, visibility could be reduced to near zero, with wind directions changing dramatically for short spells; and even on a short trip, a craft leaving Fort Point for English Caye, for example, could be surprised when the shower suddenly ends and the prevailing winds return, to find that they are in fact heading in the direction of the fabled Waterloo, the current site of Port of Belize.

In the months before the November 11, 2020 general elections in Belize, the mood in some quarters was pretty strong that the red party would be swept out in convincing fashion; but, after a dozen long years of ridicule and abuse in opposition, the blue captain, Hon. John Briceño, was not taking any chances. The Big Blue Machine was coming out with all its forces, firing on all cylinders, and determined to convince any still skeptical Belizean voter that this PUP was the real deal and determined to right the many wrongs the citizenry had endured under the arrogant and corrupted red incumbents.

Meanwhile, with time running out on a failing economy and rampant rumors of corruption, the arrival of Covid-19 in Belize early in general election year 2020, with a state of emergency declared in March, probably worked in favor of the incumbent UDP government, since the eager PUP opposition could not hold any public meetings or demonstrations to energize their followers. This may have caused the PUP to become a bit anxious; they did not know what was in the minds of those tricky “on the fence” Belizean voters, who, as it later turned out, had already made up their minds for a big sweep.

So, the PUP went all out. And what a campaign it was, unveiling in the months preceding the November 11 election date, parts and pieces of their PlanBelize manifesto, a very well thought out document indeed, which they dramatically launched in a grand opening ceremony a couple weeks before the election.

A lot of work had obviously gone into PlanBelize, and it demonstrated clearly that the PUP think tank had researched and analyzed the major issues that mattered most to the Belizean electorate in these elections. And the major themes that resonated in the language of PlanBelize were the issues of “good governance” and stomping out corruption through enacting legislation along the lines of UNCAC. Growing the economy and all that entails is always a desirable objective, but the general mood of Belizeans seemed to be that if the good governance and corruption issues were adequately addressed, the effect on the economy would be like gas in the tank of a sputtering engine.

With the stormy winds and poor visibility of Covid-19 in early 2020, the incumbent Dean Barrow-led UDP had pretty much “cut its engine” and concentrated on weathering the storm, but still with little effort to right the many wrongs and shortcomings of his motley crew, one of whose picture is still posted on a police wanted bulletin.

Having taken control of government after the November 11, 2020 sweep at the polls, the John Briceño-led PUP government had a good plan, PlanBelize, already in hand, and, Covid or no Covid, they were determined to be guided by their plan to get the country out of its health and economic danger. The stinging rain and strong headwinds of Covid did not deter the PUP craft, and it did not throw them far off course, because they had their compass, PlanBelize, to guide them through the storm.

At the current juncture, with strides having been made in agriculture, the economy surging ahead with tourism picking up some traction, houses being built and land titles distributed, the sugar crisis solved and citrus digging in for a rebound, the Superbond replaced by the quite manageable Blue Bond of the Nature Conservancy, and now the Omicron variant of Covid seeming to be less lethal, although many times more contagious than Delta, there is much cause for optimism in 2022.

Of course, it’s far from all good. There are many hungry mouths and many jobless and desperate citizens, and crime and violence rage out of control, but PUP leaders can pat themselves on the back for their early accomplishments. However, they have a lot more to do.

The political seas might now appear much calmer, and the visibility much better for the John Briceño-led PUP government, but the always skeptical non-party-fanatics are presently becoming concerned that perhaps the PUP might now be thinking of discarding their compass, PlanBelize, and forgetting some of the commitments therein that are still considered critical for the sustained progress and development of our nation. Covid may have been an excuse for some delay, but it has now been over a year, and some Belizeans are suspicious about any “lee breeze” that blows right now.

The PUP’s PlanBelize, officially launched at a ceremony at the Belize Biltmore Plaza on Thursday, October 22, 2020, was comprised of three main documents: “PUP 10 Steps to Eliminate Corruption,” “Good Governance – A Shared Responsibility,” and “Six Steps to Make Government More Accountable,” which can be viewed on its website at www.pup.org.bz.

It is not our intention to “throw cold water” on the accomplishments so far of this new PUP government under difficult Covid-19 circumstances; but it is our duty to gently remind them that the most critical areas of Belizeans’ concern remain to be properly addressed in the areas of “good governance” and “corruption” legislation. Stick to the PlanBelize which got you elected, and you can’t go wrong.

Some outstanding items from PlanBelize are the following:

The Integrity Commission must do its job effectively. To do so it should no longer be controlled by the Party in Government. Likewise, we will put in place a mechanism to ensure the financial independence of the Integrity Commission with a budget to be approved by the National Assembly…

Immediately appoint all professional personnel of the Integrity Commission (IC) and provide necessary funding for its Secretariat to fulfill the important legal, auditing and investigative roles free from any undue political influence. The IC will be capacitated to fast track implementation of commitments under the UNCAC agreement…

We will immediately sign, ratify and fully adhere to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and will access the excellent guidelines, technical assistance and resources provided to signatory…

Take immediate steps to restore the autonomy of the public service (prevent micro management by political directorate)… Revert to having Permanent Secretaries, i.e. using senior career public officers, as accounting officers of the Ministries…

Implement a transparent redistricting exercise, free from any appearance of political manipulation, with the goal being a fair representation of the public…

For fair, effective representation and participation, ensure the independence of the Elections & Boundaries Commission to be free from political interference. Its Chairman is to be appointed in a similar fashion as the DPP and Auditor General, so the EBC can be autonomous and free from government control…

“The moving finger writes.” Not our words, Honourable Members — yours.

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