In order to make de-centralization work properly in Belize, you must have local governments with autonomy from the National government. While autonomous local governments has a frightening sound to the Royalist traditional colonial mentality of the port intelligentsia in Belize City, including the political parties dominated by this one town in Belize and those working up in Belmopan; it does not quite work out the way you would first envision.
Local governments are controlled through disbursement of funds via a GRANT system of allocation of national revenues. In general terms, those countries around the world using such systems, disburse directly to local governments and in our case District governments, about 35% of National revenue. In Belize, because we have six districts, this would probably be around 36% of national revenues.
In 1998, both political parties in Belize estimated annual revenue of the national government that year at $650 million in reports from the media. For 1999, the figures seem to indicate a drop to around $450 million for the year. For our purposes then, we shall use a figure half way. Or $550 million as the revenue of the national government in any one year. Not counting the massive debt that we have overseas, we will ignore the debt factor and assume we have no foreign debt and are a self- sufficient nation.
That said, 36% would be $198 million to go to the six district governments. Or $33 million for each district. Now comes the part where the USA differs from the U.K. and Belizean style monarchist colonial control models. Let us assume, that of this 6% or $33 million each district government is entitled to receive from national revenues; 3% will actually be given to District governments as a deposit in their own bank accounts, to disperse as they see fit. They set their own priorities.
District governments would then have $16.5 million outright to govern their districts. They would have to decide priorities and disbursements according to census figures, numbers of communities and other variable factors. In turn, each town and community could expect to receive from the District government a portion of this District $16.5 million according to some mutually agreed upon ratio of qualification and need at the level of District government. To this point District governments then and including communities and towns within the district are autonomous. They must decide their own local priorities.
The National government in Belmopan and the legislature would be in charge of certain things. Such as; Customs, Immigration, National Defense, Foreign Affairs, National Standards, National Parks and Reserves, inter-district national road systems, and so on. All the rest is the responsibility of the local District governments.
The District governments would be in charge of District Education, District roads, Parks, District hospital, and so on.
Each community would then manage whatever allocation given to them by the District government, to provide local services within the boundaries of their communities. This is the beginning of de-centralization, not the current model using a centralized party in Belmopan. Locals in each district decide their own priorities.
We still have 3%, or another $16.5 million to be given to the District and town and community governments under the general 36% disbursement rule. But here is where the legislature in Belmopan sets up some National rules. As always, "he who pays the piper calls the tune". The first $16.5 million given to the District government could be called a BLOCK DISTRICT GRANT. The second $16.5 million is distributed via a mechanism of smaller GRANTS. In the USA these are TITLE grants and they cover many different specialities and fields set by Congress in the USA and would be set by the Legislature in Belmopan in Belize. These fields can also include a portion in further BLOCK GRANTS, but for specific purposes, such as District Education, which in turn would be broken down into smaller GRANTS for specific purposes. Perhaps in the Toledo District, such a smaller GRANT would be specified for purposes of classroom additions, or increases in teacher allotments for education, or perhaps equipment GRANTS. Whatever the cause they are specific and must be accounted for and spent on the purpose for which the GRANT is issued in each district that applies for them. That is one way that the national legislature controls the development of the nation on an equitable basis. Smaller GRANTS that are not used would be lost and go back to National revenue, or perhaps default to the District government bank account for use in the next fiscal year for some other purpose and assignment.
I just finished preparing for Silvia last week, a Federal TITLE V Hispanic Education GRANT. This for improving the College library with computers and book collection in the new library she is starting. The GRANT is limited to Colleges with more than 25% of a Hispanic enrollment. At the same College, George Gabb Jr. from Belize City is a Chairperson of the Computer Science Department and I told him that there was TITLE III GRANT money available for education under a sub-section, which in this case, he being in a different campus predominantly of a Black Racial student population is looked after under TITLE III GRANTS. There are GRANTS for public libraries, for highway building, for public buildings, some GRANTS require matching funds from the District Government out of their original BLOCK GRANT allotments. Schools often get specific grants for buildings, teacher programs and other things.
Take a look at it, via the internet and see how it works. You can see how de-centralization works differently and allows Districts to set their own priorities and to some extent also communities. This is the meaning of de-centralization. There is also still $352 million left in the coffers of the National Government to spend, or distribute as they see fit. Or 64 % of National annual average revenues. Out of this, they run the post office system, National Parks, national highway system, perhaps major airports, immigration, customs and to pay off that huge political party foreign debt they so love. Money left over after suitable foreign reserves are set aside can be distributed in TAX CUTS, or more GRANTS for further specific perceived district and community needs by the National Legislators in Belmopan.