(This column was first published in the Amandala issue of Sunday, October 8, 1995)
When we think about it, there are four basics necessary for human survival: food, water, clothing, shelter. In the fourteen years of our independence with its attendant symbols, let us examine briefly to see how successful we have been in achieving these substantive goals to survive as a people and as a nation.
Food: Have we been able to feed ourselves? Yes? Is that why almost everything we eat is important? No? Why not? We have failed to establish the basic foundation necessary to feed ourselves. We have had much rhetoric, many slogans, interminable seminars, a surfeit of grants and loans, but we continue to import more and more. We have yet to legislate the core of any sound agricultural program, a FARMERS’ DEVELOPMENT BANK and its Insurance subsidiary, to dispense credit and coverage for the growth, development, and protection of the farmer.
(We should have been able to use the credit from this bank to develop storage, refrigeration and marketing facilities. We could pass legislation exempting the transport system from any tax, thus establishing the distribution highway capable of moving the produce to market quickly and cheaply).
In a country with the Toledo District, we should be exporting rice to the Caribbean, not importing it.
Water: Man can live without food for about three weeks, but without water only for about three days (in a hot environment). We have spent millions of dollars over the years to develop an adequate water system. Various organizations have contributed their expertise to provide water to our villages. We have installed a “modern” water and sewerage system for Belize City, primarily for the tourist industry, but we benefit secondarily.
Yet in a land of many rivers, we still have water shortages, due to bad distribution and inadequate pressure. (It is estimated that 60% of the water is lost due to leakages across the City). Ironically, one of these rivers recently knocked out the energy necessary to drive the pump to supply the water. And it is not finished yet. We have been asked to pay for the water system of the richest tourist resort of this country. And we have yet to have an authentic financial accounting of the millions spent so far. We obviously love to be in debt.
Shelter: Is any comment needed regarding this fiasco? What other country in the world do you know of where the citizens must demean himself and go begging for a piece of his patrimony? What other country in the world do you know of that this basic human right is determined by the partisanship of one man in a government of all the people?
We receive millions of dollars from a variety of finances to provide decent houses. What do we do with it? We construct pillboxes confining our laborers to ghetto-like conditions for the foreseeable future. Is there none among us who can be creative with our local materials? In this land of so much wood?
Do we need to put all this land in “reserves” for the benefit of and enjoyment of the tourists and the environmentalists who do not give two s—s about us and our children?
Clothing: From “head to foot” from X cap to Nike tennis, everything we wear is imported from abroad. In the fourteen years of our independence we have yet to see any favorable tax legislation promoting the development of a garment or footwear industry. The next time we shout “Independence”, we should look at our Reeboks.
We have just spent twenty days “celebrating” our NATIONAL AND INDEPEDENCE DAYS under one flag, singing our own anthem in one nation with the theme of “Tolerant, respectful and proud.” We seem to believe that symbols and slogans are substitutes for the substance necessary for our survival; substitutes for a full grainery, an adequate and safe water system. We want to believe that political platitudes will create housing and textile industries.
United – Sovereign – Independent.
United? We cannot even get together on our National and Independence Days in a spirit of nationhood.
Sovereign? When our Prime Minister(s)’ pictures on our dollar bills replace that of the Queen’s, then we will have sovereignty.
Independent? From the above, do you think we are?
We have moved from colonialism to Westminster, from political slavery to economic slavery, from poverty to misery. We have moved from the promise of a Kuwait to the coming reality of a Haiti.
May the spirit of Almighty God descend upon us to save us from our “leaders.”