BELIZE CITY, Wed. March 8, 2017
Trade unionists who attended the Prime Minister’s press conference held this morning to unveil a breakthrough in the superbond negotiations, left clueless on what new tax measures would be tabled at the reading of the national budget next Monday, March 13, although Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow did disclose to us that fiscal consolidation measures are being planned to raise $70 million more in revenues while cutting spending by $30 million.
– GOB PLANS TO RAISE $70 MIL MORE IN NEW BUDGET YEAR, headline story by Adele Ramos in Amandala of Friday, March 10, 2017
The problem is that the aforementioned “softening up” represents a political solution to what is a financial and economic problem. The reason we are in this mess is precisely because of political solutions to economic problems. The politicians of Belize since 1998, both from the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) and the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), have found themselves unable and/or unwilling to come clean with the people of Belize. In their electoral political brilliance, our political leaders concluded that the people of Belize were unable and/or unwilling to face the truth.
– pg. 6, STORMY MONDAY, editorial in Amandala of Friday, March 10, 2017
On this Monday morning, March 13, 2017, we are minded of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In that allegorical classic, the animals overthrew the oppressive Farmer Jones, and began to run the farm themselves. Things didn’t work out that well, however, because the pigs who emerged as leaders of the animals began to behave a lot like the drunken and much despised Farmer Jones.
As we await the reading of the Government of Belize’s 2017/2018 budget later today, we remember the optimism which prevailed in Belize in January of 1964 when the colony of British Honduras became self-governing. Orwell’s story was intended by the writer to cast the fictional animals as the real workers who had taken over the running of communist Russia after 1917, and the pigs as the Stalinist politburo who had emerged, post-Trotsky, as the political bosses of the Russian Revolution. In our situation in Belize in 1964, the British colonialists would have been Farmer Jones, and the honest native farmers, fishermen, and other workers would have been the ones taking over in Belize. There was already a Belizean politburo in place, however, in the form of the People’s United Party (PUP), which by January of 1964 had pushed aside the foundation of the General Workers Union (GWU) on which the PUP had been built.
Looking back today, it is possible to view the PUP leaders of 1964 as the pigs of Animal Farm, and the GWU workers of Belize as personified by Boxer, the faithful, hard-working horse. But at the time in 1964, such a scenario did not appear to be the case at all. The opposition to the PUP in 1964 was coming from the National Independence Party (NIP), which was emphasizing the Guatemalan threat to Belize which had been highlighted during the Guatemalan presidency of Ydigoras Fuentes, from 1958 to 1963. In 1964, the honest workers of Belize were looking forward to sovereign independence. We did not see any threat to our future well-being as arising from amongst ourselves, the way the pigs had become a problem to the rest of the animals in Orwell’s story.
The coming of independence was delayed for seventeen years after 1964, and during that period a more sophisticated form of opposition to the PUP replaced the anti-Guatemalan NIP, in the form of the neoliberal United Democratic Party (UDP). Older Belizeans will remember that between 1974 and 1979 the PUP was very much in danger of being derailed politically by the UDP, but the PUP held on and managed to achieve the Holy Grail of independence in 1981. The conditions of that independence, however, in the clauses of the Heads of Agreement, had divided Belizeans more violently than ever before.
Since independence, and more specifically since 1998, a class of pigs has emerged in Belize’s version of Animal Farm. Sometimes, we refer to our Belizean pigs as the “PUDP.” The dream of the nationalist workers’ revolution of 1950 has been betrayed. When the 2017/2018 budget is read, we will see that the burden of feeding the pigs falls squarely on the shoulders of the Belizean masses. There is, then, a new colonialism in Belize. Farmer Jones is gone, but local pigs have taken his place.
The ruling UDP has had nine consecutive years of general election mandates to repair the fiscal damage done by the PUP between 1998 and 2008. Instead, things have gotten worse. So much so, that now the PUP can point their fingers at the UDP. There are young people who have become voting adults who do not remember Ralph and Glenn. In 2017, they are looking at some fat pigs in the ruling UDP. Who cares how much of the superbond is PUP pigs and how much is UDP pigs? Something has gone wrong here, something is going wrong here, and the educated ones with the manicured fingernails have been feeding us fancy figures and pretty stories since 1998. In the streets on March 13, 2017, hunger don’t lie.
The economy of Belize will now experience a traumatic contraction. This should not have been, because Belize is blessed with bountiful natural resources. The pigs will continue to live large, because there is a powerful police state apparatus which has been put in place here. The blueprint Belize followed was one drawn up decades and decades ago in Guatemala and Honduras. Those with eyes to see, let them see.
At some point, nevertheless, a burden of proof will fall on those leaders of the workers who have porcine ambitions. There are some union leaders who have been gambling at the political table. Now, listen here, there are public sector workers, and there are private sector workers. After today’s budget reading, it is the efficient private sector which will begin to shed jobs more rapidly. The ruling politicians made a calculated choice to protect the public sector workers. In order to do that, the ruling politicians had to throw the private sector to the dogs. The thing is, we all live in the same communities. What hurts you, sooner or later will hurt me. We’re talking about working people here.
The PUDP pigs are a different class of Belizeans. They took over from Farmer Jones. The pigs don’t feel pain. Ain’t that something?
Power to the people.