The intelligentisia in government circles tend to look at unemployment in Belize from the perspective of their training and education in temperate zone industrialized countries. They are also bombarded with statistical methods and values from organizations like the IMF and World Bank. None of which in reality apply to unemployment, statistics and the situation in the real world and needs of Belize.
Unemployment in Belize is a sort of non-existant problem! By this I mean, it should not exist. Yet it does, primarily in the towns. As land rich as Belize is, unemployment should not exist.
It all depends on how you define unemployment? Are subsistance farmers like refugees, hacking out homesteads from the bush to make a living unemployed, or self employed? Are the people of Mayan hill villages unemployed, or self employed? Neither have any or much cash flow. They live self supporting subsistance lives. If you categorize them as self employed, then there should be no unemployed in Belize the nation, because we are rich in the land ratio to population statistics. There are also sufficient and adequate programs to enable any of the unemployed youth and adults in the towns to become thus self employed. At least to fulfilling their needs in building their own houses from bush material and being self sustaining in food supplies through farming. The climate is not cold temperate zone and we do not have any particular growing season if you use simple irrigation techniques. A hand held sprinkling can. The natural rainy season if you are lazy is two crops a year, but in practice, you can plant a smaller crop every single week and water it and have food all year round.
The generation that is now in the towns, that are unemployed, are basically uneducated ( from playing hookey from school ), unskilled and even some educated people are unemployed. Nor is this situation going to change when looked at from the viewpoint of an industrialized intellentisia evaluation of what unemployment is. The government policies throughout the British Caribbean have been shown to be misplaced, misguided and total failure in tackling the unemployment problem. Belize is roughly 20 years behind the curve, but steadfastly and stubbornly followed the same path that Jamaica and Barbadoes for instance have trod before. The results will be the same. These countries have tried every idea, theory and recommendation from there own crackpot ideas with Marxism, to following blindly the recommendations of economists with degrees from organizations like the World Bank and IMF. These also have been shown to be a failure.
In essence, unemployment in Belize by industrialized nations standards should not exist. Experiments with government intervention to create employment, low labor cost foreign investment in the form of foreign capitalized investment have also for the most part failed, on any large scale to make a dent in the situation.
The generation in the towns in Belize that can be counted by these temperate zone industrialized standards as unemployed. Are basically unemployable. They are a lost generation. They don't have to be, but it is unlikely they are going to move to the countryside and become self sustaining self employed. Another factor is that within this generation, about 25% of them are going to be dead in 12 years from the Aids epidemic and another 30% will probably emmigrate. Should we do anything about these unemployed then? That is the question? The answer is no! The future is with immigration into Belize by Central American refugees. While the incoming immigration are largly uneducated and unskilled, they have the capacity and will, to become self subsisting self employed. It is their children, the second generation who will be born Belizeans who are the future. This future has to be tackled through education and infra structure developments by the different local governments and national policies over the next few years.
The key to unemployment in Belize over the next eight years, is rapid technological progress. The dream and idealization of getting factories and industrialization into British Caribbean countries in an ever changing dynamic world globalization has been shown to be a mirage that will never happen. For one thing, the labor costs are not cheap enough. And if they were cheap enough, it would be simply because the standard of living was so low, that the country would be in trouble anyway. Much of the standard of living in Belize that is so high, is supported by relatives abroad for many Belizeans.
Global economics is changing so rapidly with information technology and world capital investments flowing from place to place, seeking the best deal, that the best laid plans and theories of economists from places like the World Bank and IMF are constantly one generation of economic theory revolution behind the actual events. In Belize, this translates into government action that is 25 years outmoded, before we even start, due to the built in lag and lethargy of training, education and the budget process, which must be planned for one year later.
What is needed is innovative, imaginative policies that will leap frog ahead of this cycle of ideas and theories into unexplored new realms of doing things in new ways.
Knowledge is the key. Rapid technological training and education of the general populace is also a key. In this regard, telephones to all rural communities, computer technology, free internet hookups and education that is geared to meet the guessed at future, in anticipation of projected goals is also the key. The introduction of a technological society is the way Belize must go.
Off hand, I can envisage an aircraft manufacturing and servicing industry. Even now, we could be building our own small aircraft the for the Fisheries Patrol, drug patrol needs, and other export requirements. Our electronic library has all the information you need in this field. Peace Corps and Canadian volunteers are available to introduce this facet of technology. An aircraft powerplant and airframe school is also needed. Such mechanics need to be the faster method of the USA and not the class division system longer term training in general education preferred by Europeans. We have neither the time or the needs to go the slower European methods.
Another opening is computer science and computer programming, particularly for export to the South American Spanish speaking markets. Another opening is data entry for industrialized countries. With Free internet, this is a very practical business for Belize. There used to be such a thing in St. Kitts last time I was there. Education here, has to concentrate on the latest computer software training, typing has to be lowered from a High School requirement to an elementary school requirement and become a basic mandatory course.
IMF and World Bank requirements and policies have been shown in the more advanced Caribbean countries to lead to disaster. They are too late, to outmoded in such a world changing economic dynamic condition. Belize is going to have to strike out on it's own and find new solutions. Economic growth since the 1960's in the Eastern Caribbean countries failed to deliver the expected social and economic benefits, particularly as to regards to unemployment. The idea that manufacturing would come to Belize for cheap labor is ludicrous. We have neither cheap labor, nor skilled or educated pools of labor. It is a moot point in a changing world of knowledge power anyway. The advances in technology for manufacturing are going to robots, agricultural machines that pick fruit and process it, rather than unskilled labor. My timer has run out. Just some thoughts on unemployment, how you judge it, why Belize should not have any, and what we could do about the future.