The enormous Sanctuary Bay real estate scandal, which led to the crash of Atlantic International Bank Limited (AIBL), which I understand to have been a Belizean offshore financial entity, underlines how significant something called “subdivision” is in the land/real estate business.
The ruling politicians guard their subdivision power very jealously, because it is always a source of ready and substantial liquidity. Any large piece of land increases exponentially in value once the owner receives (or “purchases”) permission from the Ministry of Natural Resources to cut up (subdivide) the acreage into smaller portions for sale to individual land owners.
When KREM Radio was celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2014, the managers were gifted with a 25-acre piece of land, by a philanthropist, in the Frank’s Eddy area on the Western Highway, I believe. Innocent, I suppose, of the pitfalls and perils surrounding subdivision, KREM Radio happily held a public raffle wherein 25 Belizeans, mostly Belize City residents, would win a one-acre piece of land for home construction and farming in this fertile area of Belize.
But when the raffle was completed and the winners publicly declared, the Belize Ministry of Natural Resources, headed at the time by the United Democratic Party’s (UDP) Hon. Gaspar Vega, declared that the land could not be subdivided unless certain requirements, such as a park, were met. The ruling UDP then embarked in a propaganda campaign on their WAVE Radio and Television to embarrass the managers of KREM Radio in front of the one-acre raffle winners, as if the KREM managers were some kind of charlatans. In fact, it has been the ruling UDP politicians who, for the last five years, have cynically refused to allow subdivision so that the KREM land raffle winners can claim their one-acre prizes.
Contrast the KREM Radio raffle situation with the Sanctuary Bay scam, and you will get an idea of how frustrated the KREM managers have been for the last five years, while real estate moguls of all shapes, sizes, and origins have become wealthy once they can “persuade” the Ministry of Natural Resources to permit subdivision of their land holdings.
This is an area of political power which is, to repeat, a source of massive liquidity for ruling parties, but the average Belizean citizen has no idea of what is taking place in his/her country where real estate is concerned. All over Belize, especially since political independence followed by the change of government in 1984, large sections of prime Belizean land have been alienated to foreigners who have ready cash to facilitate subdivision and have made a lot of money out of selling Belizean land abroad. This real estate business in Belize has been a highly lucrative market for three and a half decades, and the voters of Belize who accept small sums of money for their votes on election day have been selling themselves cheap.
Another subject I would like to discuss briefly today is all Belize’s long weekends (Saturdays to Mondays) which focus on the mating age population and those who are in an income category where they can afford to weekend in all those fabulous tourist resorts outside of Belize City at rates which are reduced following the end of the winter in the United States and Europe. (Winter’s end means fewer American and European tourists want to leave their countries to vacation in Belize. Demand for Belizean vacations declines in the so-called off-season, so room rates have to be reduced.)
Belize probably has more long holiday weekends than any country in the world, and such weekends feature a lot of alcohol and drug consumption, traffic accidents, and various kinds of violence. Inside Belize City, the nation’s population center where this newspaper is located, it is depressing on long weekends to drive in poor, urban neighborhoods where there are basically no programs for the recreation and entertainment of children and senior citizens, except for television and telephones. This pattern has been repeated for decades now, and the most important attempt to break it has been the work of the one Perry “Sticks” Smith. ‘Nuff respect, Sticks.
Inside Belize City, the gang culture attracts the most publicity because of the sensational violence and crimes associated with the culture, but the recent shooting of a small child sent to buy at a neighborhood store should remind us that there are many, many families inside the old capital who are trying their best to live “normal” lives amidst Southside violence which is, to repeat once again, of civil war proportions.
To a certain extent, it appears that most of us have given up, in the sense that nothing shocks us anymore. We have had to make ourselves psychologically numb in order to maintain our sanity. Amidst the violence and crime, there are large, thriving businesses run by foreign immigrants who go on about their daily money-making lives protected by serious private security details, their special relationships with senior police officers, and their frequent, large, donations to the ruling UDP. The foreign immigrant businesses have developed a successful formula wherein they absolutely ignore, in fact refuse to support, any small community initiatives which focus on the roots Belizean citizens who are the customers who are enriching them.
At my age, unlike some of my contemporaries, I do not have the energy to wage war, journalistic or otherwise, against a status quo which is so discouraging where our roots people are concerned. Inside Belize as a nation , and remember that Belize City remains the financial center of the country, there are pockets of extraordinary wealth, as the Sanctuary Bay scandal exposes for us Belizeans to see once again. There are some special Belizeans who have accumulated and are accumulating great gobs of wealth, while the roots masses go hungry and suffer in many ways. Historically, such obscene disparities of wealth increase the violence between the rich and the poor. So far in Belize, however, most of the violence involves the poor against the poor. I don’t think the present situation will continue indefinitely.
Power to the people.