As GOB begins to withhold or dock the pay of striking teachers, hitting the teachers in the pocket is sure to be an effective strategy for the Government of Belize, headed by the Hon. John Briceño.
The teachers have been trying to soften the blow of the 10% pay cut by trying to get GOB to make commitments to better governance. GOB has the advantage, as making a commitment is easy, and legislation can be quickly written and passed in little time. Secondly, that demand from the union is very broad and thus, in this person’s eyes, a poor end game.
The Government seems to have the upper hand, in that all of us know we must tighten our belts under the COVID economy. The society seems to actually agree with GOB on that point.
The BNTU has been vague at best with their positions to hold GOB to making a promise for better governance while offering very little in regards to specifying a way forward for GOB to do such. They have been fixated on the implementation of UNCAC in Belize. In 2015 the BNTU forced Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, then PM of Belize, to sign UNCAC, and the then PM acquiesced. Teachers then, under Luke Palacio’s presidency, may have believed that action was a victory and would result in better government. Still, here we are 7 years later, and not a thing has changed in terms of good governance. Yet the teachers continue to now be fixated on implementing UNCAC. They may misunderstand UNCAC’s function.
The function of the UNCAC is to be a guide to principles. The United Nations Convention against Corruption, UNCAC, only shows a path to dealing with corruption. Nigeria signed UNCAC more than 25 years ago, and they are still dealing with gross corruption. So, by passing laws, Hon. Briceño’s government has nothing to fear. They can pass any law they wish to and then not fund an office or underfund the office for implementation of those laws. Look at Hon. Julius Espat’s frustration when the government, under Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, refused to fund the Integrity office headed in vain by then opposition representative Hon. Julius Espat who wanted desperately to hold UDP Ministers to account for their finances. He never made it to first base — Hon. Julius Espat, that is.
The problem is not that we don’t have adequate anti-corruption laws, but rather we don’t implement the laws we do have. The result is exactly what we continue to see: corruption and, even worse, impunity. When white-collar criminals are given impunity from investigation and from prosecution, their anti-good-governance behavior will not cease.
Corruption, unpunished, leads to impunity. Impunity is encouragement to continue corruption. The unions can turn the tide on GOB by asking for an independent office, through an international treaty with either the UN or the OAS, to be established in Belize. This, in this writer’s opinion, will be supported by the masses — thus placing the political pressure on the GOB to clean up their act. This is the endgame we should all be seeking. Accountability for white-collar crimes is possible through an internationally funded office in Belize, usually headed by an international person and staffed by locals. Such an office would not rely on the local police, who can also be investigated, for investigations. Instead, they hire their own investigators who are not paid by Government, but with international funding. Same holds true with prosecutors, as such an office could be staffed by independent prosecutors. Independent investigations, independent prosecutors to combat white-collar crimes. This office doesn’t have to be restricted to Government officials but also business leaders and NGO leaders and also the law enforcement and military officials.
In closing let’s urge the BNTU and all unions to re-strategize their end game. Make your protest result in palpable change, unions. Right now, on your current trajectory, it’s only rabble-rousing. You are being rebels without a true cause. Best to all of you.