REPORT #33 1998

Produced by the Belize Development Trust
An analysis of the Index of Economic Freedom put out by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, a study of 161 countries exposes the results of various governing economic systems.

The index shows that the countries with the higher levels of economic freedom measured by such factors as centralization, corruption, monarchist, dictatorship ( elected or not ), military rule, government regulations, ownership of private property, percentage of taxes taken out by the government are doing the best.

Countries with high levels of economic freedom are weathering the world recession well. Those that are centralized and dictatorial are doing badly and more vulnerable. The economists are arguing over the results, but some things are clear. To the surprise of many critics of capitalism, those developing countries with the most economic freedom are doing the best. The less free counterparts are doing very badly. The freest economies are the Asian countries of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. They saw little change in their currencies to the dollar value. The least free countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand are experiencing big troubles, such as devaluations, enormous in some cases. Jamaica is on the bad side of economic freedom. So is Belize.

The freest economic countries are already seeing foreign investment flooding back into their economies. Bargains on the stock exchanges have been snapped up and most have recuperated their earlier losses this year. The over production has been flushed away. Real estate, bond markets, stock markets, currencies are recovering well. Growth is off and runnng again. Nor will that growth be concentrated in the hands of a few. The gap between rich and poor is narrowest in the freest countries and widest in the centralized controlled and regulated countries.

The lesson for politicians around the world and policymakers. Regulationis bad for economic well being. Economic freedom is the best defense against financial turmoil and the path to prosperity is best left in the hands of the ordinary people in the villages and streets of a nation, not in the capitals and political cabinets and bureaucrats. It is a lesson that capitalism versus regulation should heed well.

In Belize, the problems are political corruption, caused by a centralized system, with micro management of peoples lives from the capital in Belmopan, by both elected and appointed officials. Permits and licenses that are subject to the whims of a bureaucrat, or cabinet minister, rules that change with the winds of political controls. Taxes that are too high and regulations that hinder and sometimes even prohibit business for export.

The PUP are tackling some problems. Lower taxes ( VAT ). But reversing the pyramid of policy making from a cabinet to a local lower level of government ( District governments ) is still not in the works. Partial autonomy for villages and towns is good, but far from enough. Control and policy making has to be the peoples choice in their local geographical area of Belize, not in Belmopan. The cabinet at the national level in Belmopan needs to be either a seperately elected office, like the State Government of Florida, or a Collegiate body like in Switzerland. In this function they would carry out the will of the people as legislated in the parliament, but not initiate policy as they dictate now. Similar to the Management Board in Cooperatives in Belize. Freedom from Belmopan in local districts, to make their own choices and decisions. No longer should half a dozen people in Belmopan make the life and death decisions for the nation as a whole.

Belmopan and the national government needs to be reorganized to do things like national road systems, but local district roads would be the province of the District Governments. Weights and measures would be a national issue, but licensing would be local district responsibilities.

Seperation of powers, checks and balances on the legislature, control of those that make up a cabinet, or collegiate body restricting them to managing policy decisions made by the legislature. Lots of things to be done to change Belize to a country of Economic Freedoms. At the moment Belize lies somewhere in the lower half of the scale of the Index of Economic Freedom. Due to elected dictatorship, rubber stamp parliaments, a worthless Senate, no district controls or checks over national decisions and legislation. Nor does, a national police force help, a tool of a half dozen elected mafia representative Godfathers, or capos called a cabinet in this system.

The PUP and Belize have a long way to go in restructuring to join the list of those strong countries that enjoy economic freedom. Can they do it in three years? Will they even try?

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