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Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Home Editorial Fleecing Belize, or trying to control it while out of office

Fleecing Belize, or trying to control it while out of office

When a government cements its people in public offices so that a new administration can only replace them at great cost to the nation, they are, effectively, trying to run the country while they are out of office, or rob us.

We are all familiar with or have heard of, legal wills in which the deceased put many restrictions on the use of the money or property they leave behind so that their vision remains in place long after they are gone. Baron Bliss fell in love with Belize, and he stated what kinds of projects he wanted to support, and he decreed that only the interest from the monies he left could be used. The only way the capital the baron left ceases to be of real service to the people of Belize is if the British Pound (or Euro) collapses.

There are hopeful wills, designed to protect heirs that are incapable of fending for themselves in this world. Some hopeful wills put properties into the joint ownership of heirs, the intention there being to bind loved ones in close relationships after the common ancestor is gone. These kinds of wills oftentimes produce an effect that is opposite of what was desired.

Individuals have a right to dictate how their properties are handled after they depart, but it is more sensible to invest in our offspring/heirs so that when they mature they have the capacity to properly manage whatever assets are bequeathed to them.

The handling of public monies/properties is different from the handling of private assets. The people’s business can’t be handled from the grave. When a political party is booted from office, it loses all power over the distribution/management of the assets of a country.

There is no United Democratic Party (UDP) government. That government is dead. The UDP is alive, but the UDP, as a government, died on November 11 when the people of this country said, enough of you, you did right on some things but you failed to address corruption, you eroded all our good governance institutions, you spent our oil money as though the wells could never go dry, so go away, go hibernate for five years, or more.

When a government is in power, in the aim of fulfilling its vision it distributes the assets of the country to individuals/companies through various vehicles — contracts, leases, jobs, scholarships, and so forth – and all is on the up and up if the distribution of assets is guided by established criteria, and if all the laws of the country are respected.

When it comes to contracts given out by government, there are extraordinary contracts that necessarily extend beyond administrations, for example those given to judges. That is because judges must not ever be beholden to the administration that hired them. All other contracts given out by governments to individuals are ordinary. These ordinary contracts cannot, should not, bind beyond the life of an administration.

It is not absurd for a government to give an individual a contract that extends into another administration, but the part of the contract that extends into another administration must be conditional on the administration that gave the contract winning again. Common sense tells you that if the administration that hired you is rejected by the people, you should pack your bags and place your resignation letter on the table.

Belize’s tourism industry grew almost every year before the COVID-19 pandemic, and maybe the person the UDP hired is doing a great job, and maybe too, the new government wants to continue in the same direction as the previous one, in which case we might have a glove fit, but it is the prerogative of the new government to choose whom they want to lead in that industry.

Belize’s tourism industry has been going in the very direction Father of the Nation George Price warned against. Belizeans have little ownership of the industry; our participation is limited to waiting on tables and guiding. What if the new government wants to increase local participation at the ownership level and they need another kind of talent at the head? It can’t be right for the past administration to set people in place to prevent them from doing so. That is ridiculous.

The new government put it on record that they will carry out the necessary redistricting exercise soon after coming into office, and in their manifesto they promised to: “Ensure fair elections by guaranteeing the independence of the Elections & Boundaries Commission (EBC), setting fixed dates for elections, registering all political parties, allowing free air time during campaigns. Introduce campaign finance reform with legislation to ensure disclosure of campaign contributions.”

In flagrant violation of the spirit, if not the absolute letter of the law, the past administration’s appointee is holding on to the job as Chairman of the EBC.

It is stated in Section 88 (2) of our laws, which can be found on the government’s website, elections.gov.bz, that “acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister given after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition”, the Governor General appoints the Chairman and two other members of the five-member EBC. The contract for the Chairman of the EBC has never fallen in the category of extraordinary, so on the election of a new administration the person holding the post should leave.

The UDP really must stop disrespecting the Belizean people. That party is making a bad habit of one-upping the PUP, with the people’s money. These contracts that bind the new administration have to be strongly condemned, and the individuals who insist on the validity of their contracts have to be educated about honor, the spirit of the law, accepted practices, and why their selfish interests don’t transcend those of the nation.

We do not give our leaders excuses to fail. God knows they’ve been failing us without any outside help. Is the UDP trying to give the PUP excuses? Indeed, the new government already has a very big crutch to lean on, the fact that they inherited stewardship of a bankrupt country in the grip of a pandemic.

The UDP had almost thirteen years of uninterrupted rule, during which they eroded our governance systems, instead of building them up. And since they haven’t publicly scolded their appointees about the folly and the dishonor in their holding on to these pre-election contracts, we have to believe they are complicit, with the intention of forcing their will on the new administration, or fleecing us.

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