It does seem that there are more proverbs on the subject of getting the job done in time, before it is too late, than there are proverbs to impart wisdom on any other matter, and that is for a very good reason, because there is rarely anything good in being late. Okay, we have heard about the times when being late turned out to be lucky business, but ninety nine times out of a hundred, it is the early bird that catches the worm, the fisherman who is out on the blue at dawn that catches the kingfish.
We have all been told that a stitch in time saves nine, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, that a halfpenny worth of tar applied in time could have prevented the ship from sinking, and we don’t have to live very long to know that such advice is worth heeding. That stitch in time can save you from having a pants failure on the dance floor, that little effort to stay in shape and eat right can save you from diabetes, and the Coast Guard will hate your guts if you go to sea and for failure to caulk the boat you sink and they have to leave their other duties to go out and rescue you.
In a not distant vein, we are told saving a penny on a necessary task now could cause us to spend a pound down the road, and that we should make hay while the sun shines. The former refers to what we call penny-pinching, and unfortunately too many of us are forced to live that way, even though we know the bigger tin of milk is cheaper, and woe to the farmer who is out carousing when they should be dealing with the weeds in their field, because the bush will cause them to lose their profits.
Good leadership nips trouble in the bud. Belize did not become a murderous state overnight. This problem got worse over time, and the reason why it did is because of failed leadership. Our country has produced a lot of men, mostly men, who know how to win elections, but who fail miserably in delivering the goods for the people. Clearly, our goal must be to produce the latter, but that has been oh so elusive.
Some say the people deserve the leaders they vote for, but the real story is that the people are severely limited in their choices, because in our electoral system, which is classified as first-past-the- post, also called single-member plurality, only the candidates of the two main parties can win. A donkey running for one of the two major parties has a better chance of winning at the polls than a George Price or Philip Goldson has running for a minor party.
Our last top “leader” gloated that he had won three consecutive elections. Of course his leadership wasn’t devoid of triumphs, but our country wasn’t prepared for the pandemic, even though for more than half of the dozen years before the new coronavirus gripped the world, we were rolling in oil money. It could be argued that pandemics are uncommon, that small countries don’t set aside funds for that purpose, but if we had prepared for the hurricane season, if we had money put aside for that, we would have had something to draw from.
My, we saw Nicaragua (and Honduras) get hit twice by mammoth hurricanes, and now there are thousands of people in those two countries who are destitute. It could have been us. We are in the path of hurricanes, and we have been warned that climate change will cause hurricane activity to increase.
We didn’t get affected too badly by those hurricanes that came so near to our shores, but the reserves we should have put aside so that we could defend ourselves if we got hit, should not only have been there to help us through the pandemic, but we also could have drawn from it to help our brothers and sisters who got hammered by the extreme weather.
The new government inherited a bankrupt country, and along with it some problems that have gotten out of hand. One of them is the COVID-19 situation: we had nipped this in the bud back in April, and then we allowed it to get out of control.
Thankfully, we have seen the new government step up the efforts to get control of the disease. There has been increased testing, and it appears that people who get tested now don’t have to wait 8, 10, 14 days to get their results.
In the system set up by the previous government, persons who got swabbed for Covid-19 did not have a support system in place in the event they didn’t have the resources to buy food and medicines while they were in quarantine. The new regime has shown the vision to put this support system in place.
The new team the government has set up has also included in its list of treatments a drug known as Ivermectin, which is primarily used to control parasites in livestock and pets and has been found useful for control of parasites in human beings. I am not aware that this drug has been endorsed in the fight against Covid-19 by the two organizations Belizeans respect most, the WHO and the CDC, and our Ministry of Health (MoH) has said they don’t know how effective it is; however, they are aware of it being used in Belize, and so they thought it best to control it. The MoH says that by placing Ivermectin on their list of controlled drugs, people who want to use it will have to get a prescription from a doctor, and this way they will get more information on the drug, and they will get the right formulation for humans and the correct dose if they decide to use it.
We absolutely must make a special effort to deal with this murder pandemic. We can argue about the humanity of the methods used in colonial Belize to cramp murders and that other horrendous crime, rape, but in old colonial Belize, murders were few. Those who were charged with murder were usually found guilty, and those who were found guilty were led to the gallows within weeks of receiving their sentence. We can’t say that rape was rare in colonial Belize, because this crime isn’t always (or is it seldom?) reported, but what is a fact is that the punishment, the cat-o-nine, was a feared tool even for the most calloused minds and bodies.
This new government came to power on the manifesto promise that all of us fu win, but as noted before, our country is bankrupt. We were on the ropes before the pandemic, and all forecasts are that our economy will not be released from the virus’s grip anytime soon. There are ways the new government can help to ease our pain, but it is believed that we are going to be a poor country for some time to come. All the experts say that poverty is a major cause of our descent into violence. Okay, that state is expected to be with us for some time yet, but we cannot accept this scourge, this blot on our nation.
Clearly, our leaders will have to step up their game. They are increasing the size of the police department; they might also have to put in solutions that make the lawyer fraternity cry foul, so they had better not squander their collateral, like the former government did with their rank nepotism and corruption. There’s no nipping in the bud here, because violence is rampant, but we can put a dent in it if the people believe in the government, and see our leaders put in the extra effort and share our pain.