In our economic system, the government has a responsibility to foster an environment in which everyone who wants to work can find a job, either by creating it or by providing their labor/services. The progressive government, through the education system, encourages people to develop skills that the system needs. People must buy into this promise; if they don’t, the system collapses.
The system is shaken during natural disasters, and strikes, and it can experience almost complete collapse in some instances, for example during the period of a pandemic. We are in a pandemic, and thousands of us are holding on to the ropes because the economic system is reeling, near the point of collapse.
According to a report from the Statistics Institute of Belize for September 2020, there were 168,630 persons in our labor force, with 145,455 who were employed and 23,175, or 13.7%, who were unemployed. There are actually thousands more Belizeans who are not working at this time; however, they are not included in the ranks of the unemployed, because they are on furlough.
A quarter of employed Belizeans are receiving reduced wages, and consequently the thousands of Belizeans who depend on them for some of their earnings are forced to survive on less. At this time it is hard to find a Belizean who doesn’t agree that half a loaf is better than no loaf, so our concern has to be directed to the more than 23,000 of us who are unemployed, and so completely dependent on assistance for their and their families’ survival.
Prior to the pandemic it wasn’t working out that well for more than 50% of us, and the suffering is not only more widespread now, it is exponentially more intense.
Much of the world we knew doesn’t exist anymore, so much of how we used to do things doesn’t apply anymore. Previously, the government’s business was to create the environment for people to work, while lending a hand to those who were falling through the cracks. Until the pandemic is over, the main business of government has to be to protect the little we have, and take care of the thousands who have been displaced.
In some cases the haves in our country might have had some justification before COVID-19 for looking down at people who weren’t making it in the system. In the world before Covid-19, the justification of the haves for their success was their hard work, their great intelligence, and their being loved by God, while they condemned the unsuccessful as lazy, not so smart, and not loved by God.
Belizeans who believe in the socialist philosophy look on in shock as our country fails to adapt to the present situation. At the beginning of the pandemic Belize’s most leftwing party, the Belize Progressive Party, suggested that the government take over the distribution of food to people who had no money to buy any. It is unconscionable for the funds the government scrapes up from the bottom of the treasury to be divvied up between supplying food for the hungry, and providing profits for those who are not in need.
We understand that the new government is investigating and will report shortly on how the previous government handled these funds, and though they have already been swept from office, it should be more woe to our old leaders if they were found to be dishonest and/or unintelligent in the handling of resources earmarked for the survival of our people.
The government must commandeer arable land, and use the considerable human and material resources it has to plant, to produce staples such as beans, pumpkins, vegetables, and corn, to provide food, good food FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE JOBS.
Congratulations to the new government for seeking low-interest loans for our farmers whose crops got drowned by the recent floods, and congratulations for getting some cattle sales to Mexico. There’s a lot of livestock out there in our pastures, thousands of heads carrying prime grass-fed beef, and our people are eating Salchichas. If it is through the issuance of IOU’s, the Marketing Board has to purchase cattle from our ranchers and ship them to the abattoir, so our people can get fresh, quality beef to eat.
Who can stay home, should stay home
The number of persons in our country who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 is staggering. A number of our people have died, too many, a lot of us are sick, too many, and our worst fears when the pandemic began is now a reality – our health system is overwhelmed. The situation is terrible for our health workers, and for the many unlucky persons who for some reason or reasons are more susceptible to the virus, and it is terrible for persons with other illnesses, because the health system is spread too thin to attend to their suffering.
No one is safe from the virus, and recently we lost three notable citizens. Every life is important to the country, every family grieves for their loved ones, but when individuals invest so much of their lives into developing themselves to serve the good of all, the loss is greatly magnified. Our flag is at half-mast after the virus took the life of one of our parliamentarians, a relatively young man, and on the weekend we got more heart-wrenching news, that we lost two young doctors.
Until we have a vaccine, the best solution to stop the virus is to shut down the country, but because of the economic hardship and destruction that would bring, many see that cure as worse than the disease. While our leaders ponder that call, we have our individual responsibility, and there we are falling down badly. There are people who either don’t care for others, or they are suffering from the worst disease of all, ignorance. We must reach/teach these people, so we are all engaged in this battle.
We know what we have to do: we must wear our masks, and wear them properly; we must sanitize our hands regularly; we must keep at least six feet from others when we are out in public; and we must forego loud talking when we meet our friends. This Christmas season we have to be creative, which includes “virtual” celebrations, like Garifuna Settlement Day events and Krem Krismus. We must observe all the safety measures, and those of us who don’t NEED to be out, should STAY home.