Features — 24 November 2018
Offshore companies exploit our resources

Musings by the Curious Non-Conformist

This past week a dear friend of mine, Mr. Bryton Codd, and I were discussing a bit about where Belize is and where we want to see it in the next decade. He is away studying to complete his Master’s degree in Canada, but with the advent of social media keeping up to date with what’s happening at home is very easy for him. Our discourse revolved around the party political conventions that are happening, the emerging of new parties and coalitions, and focused a lot about the poverty that still plagues our beloved Belize. He recalled that he had written a piece about this and shared it with me so we can then further discuss our positions and possible points of action. I share his opinion entitled, “Continuation of the Divide: Household Poverty”, in hopes that it may spark some dialogue for you be it internal or with your own circle of friends.

How do we define poverty in the frame of our Belizean society? Is it being cash poor or is it being deprived of resources which gives access to equal opportunities? Without a doubt Belize covers the breadth of any definition of poverty. One may ask, why is household poverty considered a social problem? A social problem is defined by Oxford Dictionary as”Any aspect of society that requires alteration or development, especially through some form of social engineering (Oxford Dictionaries, 2016).”

There continues to be a great divide in the demographics of Belizeans because of the inability for a “common man or woman” to get assistance to grow and develop to be productive citizens. Once in a while we hear of cases where young individuals from the most impoverished communities break the shackles of household poverty; but what about the other thousands who are not able to access higher education? What about the other thousands who may have the passion, but not the means? What about the other thousands who may have another skill set, but it cannot be developed because education needs to be reformed? Thereafter, what jobs are available for young people to be a part of the development process in our country?

Household poverty continues to be one of the biggest social problems in our Belizean society. Without qualm, this is as a result of our reluctance to stand up as a community for a change in the social order of development, all because of the fear of being politically victimized. Household poverty is the direst social problem affecting the livelihood of many Belizeans. Poverty is the number one human issue on the Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals, and it is not being addressed with the urgency to be eradicated in this century; much less so by 2030!

According to Valentino Shal and Jacqueline Dragone (2014), they shared in the Poverty Reduction Action Plan of 2010 that 43% of our population falls below the general poverty line at $3,429 annually. This data sheds light on the insurmountable reality that as a country we will not be able to achieve the first development goal by 2030. This social problem requires much more than isolated programs to assist in trying to keep people out of the brinks; it requires an interconnection of programs working together for the benefit of those directly being affected.

As Belizeans, we have never stood up or revolted for change in the systems that govern this country. The political system, the system of governance, legal systems, they all insentiently work together in maintaining a capitalist system that is only furthering the divide of our people. When do we recognize that our time to create change is not when the society collapses or civil war commences?

As a developing nation globalization has brought its benefits to our country, but on the contrary it is a huge factor in the division. According to the United Nations University publications (2004), “globalization is not benefiting the poor, and in order for developing nations to benefit from globalization there has to be a change in structure (UNU-Wider, 2004).”

In Belize there are so many offshore companies especially in the tourism sector that are flourishing because they are evading taxes. These companies are exploiting our resources every single day and fail as corporations to take on social responsibilities. This is one of the biggest ways in which globalization continues to divide our nation. The rich are getting richer; and the poor are getting poorer. It is time that as a nation, we demand that these multimillion dollar corporations assist in the greater development of our society. Do we need to continue pleading for their assistance or do we have to cause a revolution in this country before the mass inequality ceases?

The amount of programs being funded by the different UN agencies is superb, and they do assist in the development of our country. However, how long will the programs last? What will happen when these programs come to an end? Even though we have so many different programs to alleviate poverty, there is still not going to be change if the ultimate key is not being developed! People are not getting access to higher education or different means of self-actualization and development. The Poverty Reduction Action Plan (2014) states,”At least one person out of the 70% of poor households is working.”

Just imagine what difference it would make if one more person is given an opportunity to work in those households. Maybe this is the solution to the problem; however, due to the lack of educational reformation, our Belizean people will continue to live in heinous conditions, and the divide of classes imposed by colonialism will ensue.

Stay Curious.

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Deshawn Swasey

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