So the mid-week holiday saw more rain than we have had in the rainy season, which was more like a dry season … it rained countrywide and no one was spared. While the rain is always needed so we do not suffer a drought, and for the irrigation of our crops, there is a vast segment of our population who dread when the rains come, for their very own personal day-to-day life reasons.
Living in squalor
So the word “squalor” means “a state of being extremely dirty and unpleasant, especially as a result of poverty or neglect,” and it so aptly describes the reality of many of our children in Belize City, both on Northside and Southside, but the majority on the Southside. And of late as we have found out, even in San Mateo, San Pedro, we have seen the phenomena of these urban ghettoes. For San Pedro the poverty is on the Northside …. And despite that being the wealthiest part of our country because of the tourism dollars, it is the poorest in so many ways. In Belize City the Belama Phase IV is another growing ghetto, where for the residents the rain means the increased danger of the crocodiles, in the flooded streets and yards.
When the rains come, not only is there flooding of the streets, but there is also flooding of the homes of many of our nation’s children. For some, the rain leaks through their roofs and walls; for others the elevated waters enter their homes, some of which already are placed in swamps over dilapidated bridges, made of bits and pieces of lumber.
The reality for many of our children is that they cannot even sleep through the rains because many do not have a bed, but rather sleep on sponges or sheets on the floor of their homes … that is their reality. So, of course, when it rains and the house floods out, they are not able to sleep and the parents are left helpless as to what next to do, as their reality is really that they just do not have better to offer their children. Many Belizeans living a middle income life are oblivious of the level of poverty in our country and how many live below the poverty line.
The situation is really further aggravated by the fact that the flood also causes the sewage to float out as well and so it’s not just flood water we are dealing with, but rather it’s nasty, toxic, unsanitary “shit” water … yes, let’s call it what it is. It is still a reality that many of these homes do not have indoor plumbing and so they are not connected to the sewer system. As such their bodily needs are done in pit latrines or any “convenient” place.
In the case of San Pedro’s ghetto one resident explained graphically the lack of facilities to dispose of the sewerage and how they must live with seeing it floating by and the stench that accompanies it … and the skin infections that follow once in contact with it. It is nasty, filthy and it is as a result of neglect … yes, neglect to plan communities and provide basic housing infrastructure for the growing populations and communities across our country.
The side-effects on our development
As the rain poured outside and I wrote this piece, my heart sank to think how many people, especially our children, could not sleep … how many would not go to school Thursday for many reasons including the fact that all their clothes got wet … or sometimes just shame on the parents to send them out after not getting a good sleep the night before.
While we like to say rain is a shower of blessing and it is so for many reasons, for our children living in these inhumane conditions the blessings seem to pass them by. Now imagine you are a child living in a home that floods out during any rain, the sewage from the ‘hood is all around you so you cannot just ignore it and it has become and remains the reality of your life … Tell me what mind-set could you possibly develop? Or tell me what drive you have to get up and go to school and stay focused on your studies… when you do not know if the sun will come out to help dry away the flooded waters, dry your personal belongings or, more important, that space you call your bed?
These conditions just do not lead to productivity ad surely do not help develop a mind-set in our children that will lead to high academic productivity … they may be gifted and, if properly motivated, mentored and stimulated, they could be our next generation of productive citizens … but their first classroom of life does not inspire forward movement … rather those living conditions burden them with trying to enjoy the basic amenities of life, which I consider basic human rights … but are not available to them.
The rain keeps falling outside … I could see them feeling cold, tired and unable to wake up all bright and energized to go to school to prepare to be our next teachers, businessmen, doctors, accountants, scientists, athletes … and the possibilities are limitless. To compound that, many of our children are subject to all forms of abuse at the hands of their frustrated parents … they are exposed to a street life and violence without enjoying the innocence of childhood and sadly while still so “helpless,” our leaders are making decisions these children will have to pay for when they are adults and are in their “productive” years … but their own parents may not be thinking that far and helping to facilitate the further gloom in their life.
Political patronage keeps us in bondage
Imagine as the rains poured on the nation almost all day Tuesday the highlight of the day was the mere two thousand party political animals who converged on the National Assembly to support and legitimize a process, that, legally, is flawed but is being legitimized by political rhetoric.
This week’s rains brought two things to the fore … the plight of our nation’s children living in poverty and the corruption of party politics for the gain of a few and not our children.
On Tuesday, November 18, 2014 amidst all the charade and political grand-standing and name-calling and show off … the only thing that was real was the fact that a money decision was made … And that the ones who have been committed to pay it back are these same children whose homes have flooded out … and whose poverty is “waved” and used as the reason politicians act. Imagine, it is just like the Super-bond, just new players and new ring-masters, but still the future of our children being mortgaged out long before they can even have a say in the matter.
You see, set aside the debate about the violation of the Finance and Audit Act as amended by Act #31 of 2010, Chapter 15 Laws of Belize, and the finger pointing of the UDP and PUP, and look at the decisions that really took place. It is decisions that will be paid for by our children when those payments become due … payment of a flat and fluctuating loan amount … hmmm!.
We all know it’s easy to spend the money now, claim it is for the “poor” and in the name of development … hurray hurray … but when payday comes, the same people who have signed the dotted line of indebtedness will not be around to pay the bill. No, they are only around right now to enjoy the spending. Some will benefit through contracts and handouts and some patronage … and yes, as is usually with these spending, some poor will get a fix, albeit temporary, while the major players will get the bulk of the money … enrich themselves and fight and finance the party to keep the corrupt practices going, since they have become addicted to the power and those who facilitate their lifestyle.
As to the poor children sill soaked in the rain … the monies would not have been used to lift them out of the poverty and enslaved mind-sets that their parents have been trapped in … They will be bred into the next set of “rented crowds” who have to go and wear the party T-shirts and show political muscle for the politicians whose main goal it seems is self-enrichment. And this is not unique to any one political party!
The principle of the situation
So many want the money spent, no one wants to think about payday, it is best to postpone that and not calculate the economic strain it will place on us … like the Super-bond – it is about spending now and worrying to pay later.
Now any adult who has ever made a loan will attest how great it is to collect that grand loan total and spend and feel rich for the moment … but ask them how it feels when the loan due date arrives and they struggle to make the payments … or how it feels when they miss a payment … or when they realize they spent all the money and don’t have anything significant to show for it … that is not a good feeling. For a personal loan the same person who made it, still must pay the consequence of paying it back … however in these public loans made by government on behalf of the people … the persons who made the loan are seldom around to ensure its payment … there is no immediate threat to act with propriety, because you personally will not be liable or responsible to meet payments. So one set always makes the loan and gets the immediate benefits, while the other deals with the pain of paying it back.
No matter how the PM spins this one and explains why he took a loan in excess of !0 million dollars before going to the House to get it approved according to the very law his administration amended for accountability … nothing can legalize what he knows in principle is outright wrong and illegal. So why make the law if he intended to violate it? As to Godwin Hulse, who in a past life not too long ago held the Finance and Audit Act as his mantra and pillar of righteousness … it is no longer disappointing or alarming to me to see him now give up the principle of this situation.
As the rain continues to pour while I write this piece, my prayers are with my soaking wet children, whose homes continue to leak and whose parents must kiss political asses to get by. May from amongst these children a true leader arise! God bless them!