Most Belizeans should be familiar with a declaration from the UDP camp, a few years after they were ousted from office in 1998, that they had twice saved the economy only for the PUP to come behind and squander and steal the treasures that they had built up. Some in the UDP camp stated bluntly that this would not happen again. They would not leave the cupboard full for any incoming government, because it could be PUP. Some prominent members of the party also stated that they would get their “share” next time.
We would be remiss if we continued this essay without mentioning that the first time the UDP got the boot from office, in 1989, the national treasury wasn’t overflowing with cash, but things were not too bad because the UDP government of 1984-89 had been well supported by USAID, sales of passports to Asians in an Economic Citizenship Program, and the sale of shares in the national telecommunications company.
The treasury wasn’t flush with cash when the 1993-98 UDP government left office. In fact, things were bad in our country, so bad the government decided to downsize the public service — 800 public officers were given pink slips just before Christmas, 1997.
The UDP was returned to office after ten years, in 2008, and in 2012, when they called a snap election, purportedly so that they could get a mandate to restructure the national debt, which they had dubbed the Super Bond, the cupboard was bare.
Still, the UDP expected a comfortable victory, because the PUP had absolutely been demolished at the polls in 2008, the UDP winning 25-6 in that election. However, when the dust settled on the election of March 7, 2012, the UDP got over by only three seats, 17-14.
There weren’t many scandals in the UDP government of 2008-2012. The hottest issue was the nationalization of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL). There were comments about the nepotism of the leader of the government. Prime Minister Barrow hired his ex-wife, Ms. Lois Young, as counsel to defend Belize in a number of major cases, including the one involving BTL.
The PM’s justification for Ms. Young’s appointments was that she was an excellent lawyer, and that she had been involved with an organization, Association of Concerned Belizeans (ACB), that had exposed various shady activities of the PUP governments between 1998 and 2008. Later in that 2008-12 UDP administration, the PM added his younger brother, Denys, to the team fighting the case involving BTL. The PM said his brother was hired because he was the best lawyer in the country.
Naked, blatant, in-our-face corruption erupted in the UDP government of 2012-2015, and continues in the UDP government of 2015 – ?
It could be that the UDP abandoned their desire to be honest and yielded wholesale to corruption because they felt the people were ungrateful when they almost returned the PUP to office in 2012. In truth, some of their top families weren’t saints during their 2008-2012 government: it was just that what they were doing under the table was still hidden from sight.
After their 2012 government began, the rot spread, with only a few exceptions. After winning the 2012 election the top UDP families were full bore after their share, and they didn’t care that the Belizean people saw what they were about.
The things the UDP does, the kinds of scams they are involved in, it’s shocking. They don’t care anymore for their past when they were the party “that saved Belize’s economy.” They didn’t get their share then, and they mean to get it now.
The UDP camp makes no secret that they see the PUP as a corrupt gang that over their many years in office gobbled up ALL the prime properties and grabbed ALL the scholarships for their children. The top families in the UDP believe that they were denied by the PUP, and that they were also denied by UDP governments led by Sir Manuel Esquivel. The UDP weren’t squeaky clean under Esquivel, but scandals were rare.
We are not about investigating the PUP of the past here, but it is a fact that as far as the nation’s resources are concerned, the PUP took care of the PUP first. This wasn’t fair, and it hurt Belize. What the UDP is doing now isn’t fair to Belize either.
The UDP had every opportunity, through the tax structure, through shoring up the various institutions of government, through the creation of a meritocracy, to put things in order. Their top families chose to get their share, and that has, inevitably, compounded the nation’s problems.
There are some poor members of the UDP who have gotten a little bite of pie, and it is always good when the poor get a little something. What they have received, however, could have been so much more if the government had worked on running a good ship. Other Belizeans who have never or barely tasted of the pie would have found themselves at the table too, if the UDP had used the windfall from the oil find in Spanish Lookout, and the largesse from Petro Caribe to expand the economy.
Belizeans who possess high qualifications or material wealth are equipped to reap from the resources of this nation regardless of who is in power. One of the great tragedies is the many who barely get anything when their party is in power, and get nothing when the “other” party takes control.
Many more Belizeans should be employed. Our people should be sewing clothes and we should be processing and canning/bottling the produce from our fields. More resources should be invested in the arts and research so that we can create more jobs. It isn’t happening because the UDP’s plan is all about their turn.
This is no way to run a country. While the UDP are busy as bees getting their share, our country is losing its dignity on the world stage. At home, Belizeans are losing faith in governance institutions, and poverty is increasing. At home, we are staggering under a wave of crime, the cruel harvest of corruption in our land.
The UDP is about even-ing the score with the PUP. This is a conscious grab and their leaders don’t give a damn what anyone thinks. They believe in their corruption.