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Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Home Editorial Maintaining the status quo will not save us

Maintaining the status quo will not save us

It is not impossible that COVID-19 (new coronavirus) could lose some of its sting in the very near future. Most experts are saying it is likely that the disease will continue to be a major worry for quite some time, but there are good examples of containment in some countries — in Singapore, in Taiwan, in South Korea, and in Mainland China where the first outbreak was recorded.

The medical world knows a lot more about controlling the spread of influenza-type viruses than it did when the so-called Spanish Influenza broke out during and immediately after WWI. The response in some areas to COVID-19 was a little slow, but at this point everyone is heeding the advice of the World Health Organization (WHO), as best as they can.

The disease is dragging the entire world economy down, so the world is dedicating much of its resources toward conquering it. There are reports that a drug developed in Cuba is showing good results with COVID-19 patients in Mainland China, and there are also reports of some success with anti-viral drugs developed to treat other diseases. The disease is causing so much stress on world health and the world economy that standard precautions for the testing of new drugs are being cast aside in the hopes that the magic bullet will be found.

There is no magic bullet at this time, and the experts don’t expect one within a year, so what all countries are trying to do is manage the disease so that it doesn’t overwhelm their medical systems.

The world cannot shut down for too long, and the only path forward is to adapt. The big, highly populated countries will find their new normal: how they will adjust their health and economic systems to get the best results in a world they and us (might) have to share with the unwelcome COVID-19 for some time.

There are hopes in Belize that our tropical climate will exert some control over the new coronavirus, so if/when we get cases here, they will be few or not too severe. Some experts don’t hold out much hope that our climate will have a significant impact on the virus.

Nurses at the KHMH will be at the frontline when the disease appears in Belize. They are forward-thinking when they demand that the management of the hospital find another place to treat COVID-19 patients. The management of the hospital cannot allow their egos to prevent them from acquiescing to the nurses’ request. On the point of morale alone, it makes sense for the KHMH management to find another facility for treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The measures we are taking could keep things on the upside on the health front, but what we cannot dodge is the fallout in the world economy. Belize is already taking a big hit, and the new normal that is coming into reality in the greater world means that we have to chart a new course if we will thrive. Much of what we need to do, we should have done before the entry of the COVID-19.

The Prime Minister has announced a special economic package, particularly to help persons who are being affected by the almost complete halt in the flow of tourists, both overnight and cruise, to our country. The philosophy behind the Prime Minister’s survival package is basic: it is to ensure that persons who lose their jobs receive some relief so that things continue as normally as possible, the belief being that if we maintain the status quo for the next month, and another month if needed, our economy will not collapse.

In ordinary times, maintaining the status quo meant that those who had a little of the pie would be looking at how to improve their quality of life – their housing, their transportation, their education, and so forth — and thus there would be some trickledown to the people who don’t have regular jobs.

In these times people will be far more inclined to hold on to what they’ve got, saving instead of investing. Saving is good, but if we don’t invest, our economy will go under. When investments shrink up, predatory actions will become more common, and life will become a lot more chaotic than it is now.

The 2020/21 budget has little in it for poor people, and the emergency budget proposed for the short term doesn’t have anything to make our poorer folk “kip heart.” Our government has to do better. At its best our present economic system is designed only for persons who make it successfully through the school system; the policy to deal with the poorer classes is to put the less restless ones into the ranks of the security forces, and the more restless ones into prison.

We must urgently complement the programs in place by producing more food, sewing our own clothes, and making our own furniture. Our government must invest in training and equipment so that we preserve the fruits of the field when they are in season, and process our beans, and potatoes, and onions to increase their shelf life. We can pay our cash debt to Venezuela and our “kind” debt to Cuba, in food.

Our chemists must get incentives so that they apply themselves to producing the everyday things we use in our homes and developing local materials that our engineers and architects can use in building economical houses for our growing population. There is a lot more we can do for ourselves.

Belize is poor because we import too many things that we can make for ourselves. The stimulus package, or survival package, can, for a short period, keep us afloat in our present state, which is a country with 40% of its citizens on the financial ropes who are murdering each other at an alarming rate. We can, must, do better.

A nation in the grip of desperation and retaliation

After a few days of extreme violence that saw over a dozen people shot, and seven deaths that included young men, a young woman, and two very young children, the Ministry of National Security called a state of emergency, locking down Southside Belize City. The measure will probably reduce violent crime in the old capital for a while, but it is just a Band-Aid for a festering sore.

A tale of desperation (poverty) and retaliation (no justice from the state) just keeps getting worse. Our young men are desperate, frustrated because of their poverty and the poor distribution of the nation’s wealth; they are in retaliation mode because the state is unable or disinclined to punish persons who commit violent crimes.

In this state of desperation and retaliation, many innocents are getting injured or killed in the crossfire. The shootings this week came from the barrels of guns held by individually mad, heartless people, but they are not alone in their guilt. The havoc in the streets is the result of an unjust and misguided economic system that our leaders seem unable or disinclined to address, and our woeful delivery of justice.

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