It is often said and sung that we’ve come a long way. But I always mused at such an assertion, because when I survey where we currently are and from whence we came, our growth and development as a country has been mostly sluggish and, overall, stunted. Forty years post Independence, we find ourselves in a situation that is grim. Aside from the sluggish pace of development post Independence, and our collective failure to really move this country away from the shackles of our old colonial masters, the callous mismanagement and plundering of our resources and reserves, (now coupled with the economic effects of COVID-19) have landed us in the trenches!
When I say we are in the trenches, we are really in the trenches. On the economic front, we have a massive deficit of about 500 million that we are scrambling to find ways to pad. We have a debt to GDP ratio that has ballooned past twice the healthy rate and is nearing 130% of GDP. We are struggling to make our debt payments to our creditors, and we may very well end up defaulting yet again, with hopes of a serious restructuring, which we so badly need as a matter of urgency.
Almost one-third of our country’s population currently find themselves either unemployed or underemployed, and many more lack employment security and security of tenure. The poverty rate in this country has exceeded 40%, and almost half of our country find themselves struggling below the poverty line. Very little to no stimulus is being provided to the people who are in dire need, and this is simply because of the lack thereof.
The towns and cities of this country are literal and metaphorical “ghost towns”. It resembles a place that has been barren after a serious war or plague. Economic activity is sluggish, and the country stands still. As you move around and come in contact with a person or two, eyes once filled with pride and glee, now are forlorn and full of despair. It is almost as if the country is in the middle of an open heart surgery, and we are hemorrhaging — and hemorrhaging badly; and the doctors are nervous while telling the wider family circle that the prognosis is grim.
Amid the eerie silence, you can hear the monitors beeping, and the pressure has fallen critically low. The line wavers towards calamity, and outside the waiting room, everyone is on edge. The chief of surgery decides that in order to save the (economy) from death and restore it from a place of life support, the few who are left fueling the economy will have to make a grave sacrifice. They are called upon to give blood. They then determine that they can’t readily agree to such a sacrifice, because if only attention had been paid to the dire situation and more prudent steps had been made to manage the situation, they simply wouldn’t need that blood transfusion.
So now, as a consequence of this and more, as a country, we find ourselves in the trenches. And we’ve been here a while, but now, the trenches are starting to get a bit mucky, and we find ourselves being sucked under, in dire need of assistance to get out. Is there a way in which we can get out of these trenches that we find ourselves in? Absolutely! Is there one person or group who can save us, altogether? Absolutely not! In order to get out of these trenches that we find ourselves in, we will have to unify our efforts, all making sacrifices (sparing none), leading from top to bottom, hands in hands, shoulder to shoulder, so that we can meander our way out.
With each passing day, the masses of the Belizean people are suffering and are on the precipice of collapsing. Our leaders are expecting a mere bunch to lead the bailout efforts to get the country out of the trenches, but they themselves haven’t demonstrated great sacrifice. We can do this, but it’s gonna take a great many hands being put to the wheel and sacrifices from the top to the very bottom; especially at the top! You can’t tell one group to make a great sacrifice when you yourself haven’t made any drastic sacrifice to lead the troops in that direction.
We are in the trenches. It’s crowded down there, and it’s beginning to get quite mucky. Many people are being trampled upon, and very many more are suffocating from the pungent stench and are beginning to get ill with all the hardships. We have to come together and come together in a matter of urgency to pull ourselves out of the trenches. This is no longer idle games or gimmicks. The writing is on the wall. Uncle IMF stands waiting on the prowl with the economic whip if we don’t act and act quickly. The people are suffering and are losing hope. We need to pull ourselves out of the trenches before we find ourselves in a bottomless abyss.
Unchained Reflections Of A Liberal Pragmatist.