It's Jes' One O' Them Zero Thangs
by Frankie Rhys
So he was finally going to grant me an interview, he the
omnipotent, the great, the Wizard, the Wizard of Rass. I
thought that this day would never come, after all, wasn't I
a member of the hated "independent media", those who "only
talk about the negatives", those who are always "bringing
down Belize", those who never talk about all the
"achievements" of this Government? I always wondered about
those "achievements"; how's ripping off more dollars in
eight years than all of the Belizean politicians ripped off
en masse from the introduction of Internal Self Government
in 1964 to 1998, a total of thirty four years? That
certainly qualifies as an "achievement" of sorts, doesn't
it? Was the Wizard going to prove me wrong?
It wasn't that the Wizard had any difficulty taking
care of his own gargantuan needs and the needs of his
business associates, it was just that everything else he
touched somehow turned into huge piles of ****. One of the
problems with huge piles of **** is that they smell like
huge piles of ****. The people were getting restless
because they were beginning to smell the Wizard's work.
The Wizard could turn up with large sums of money.
Nobody knew how he did it, it was rumored that his magic
was great. After many years, it became apparent that the
Wizard's magic was based on making sales pitches to banks,
bond underwriters, and others with money to lend. He would
convince them to lend money to Belize. He was admittedly
very good at that. What he wasn't so good at was making
sure that the money could be paid back! When you borrow
enough money from lending institutions and don't pay them
back, they eventually begin to get ****ed and a whole other
scenario begins to go down.
The Wizard created additional problems because he
couldn't resist using one of his favorite moves, squeezing
large campaign contributions from very rich benefactors.
This can become very dicey when the rich benefactors want
something serious in return for their "generosity." There
was a bumper sticker that was popular in the U.S. in the
1960's. It read: "Gas, Grass, Ass. Nobody Rides For Free."
That about sums up the situation that Belizeans find
themselves in today: privately owned utilities that demand
and get rate hike after rate hike, the sale of GOB assets
and services such as the Government Print Shop and BELIPO
in deals that appear to have been highly disadvantageous to
taxpayers, the BTL mess and its burdensome legal fees, oil
money that doesn't add up, heavy taxation, the reliance on
regressive taxes such as the GST, the skyrocketing cost of
health care along with increasing privatization of the
health care sector, education at all levels becoming more
and more expensive and therefore more and more exclusive,
fewer and fewer jobs, a wreck of an economy, the looting
and the destruction of the DFC, a Government lending
institution that was originally designed to assist poor
people and students, no effective checks and balances to
the power of the Executive branch of government, open
defiance of Supreme Court orders by police commanders and
commercial interests, crime, particularly urban crime, that
is way out of control, just about the lowest credit rating
possible, a crushing debt burden for future generations,
environmental degradation, no coherent policy for future
development, nothing but zeroes, a whole heap of zeroes.
The "free ride" has come to a crashing halt.
"Zeroes", whispered the Wizard, Japanese Zeroes."*
"Japanese Zeroes?" I whispered back and then caught myself.
Why in the hell was I whispering? No way would I let the
Wizard work his magic on me.
"What in the world do Japanese Zeroes have to do with
"Aha", exclaimed the Wizard. "I called Jules Vasquez
'Goebbels' last Friday. I also made a clearly obscure
reference to the Leader of the Opposition as 'Hitler'.
That's two references to World War II Germany. I had to
make a reference to something Japanese from World War II,
too. Hey, are you media types going to accuse me of
discrimination against yellow men? One Yellowman is bad
enough. Gotta find a reference for Mussolini soon.
Equality, I believe in all inequality being equal and all
partiality being impartial."
Before I could even pose a question much less try to
decipher all of that, whatever it meant, he continued with
hardly a moment's pause. "It's really about real zeroes
too. Thought I was crazy, didja? Whether the numbers are
$160 million off, or right on, depends on where you put the
zeroes." He smiled, clearly reveling in his "knowledge" and
in his clever use of the English language.
He continued on again before I could get a word in
edgewise. "Like I said, it's really about real zeroes.
Remember when Mexican money had so many zeroes no one
wanted the stuff? All right, you don't. Anyhow, all they
had to do was to drop alla them zeroes. A $150,000.00 peso
note became a $15.00 peso note. It was them zeroes. When
they dropped alla them zeroes, behold, Mexico looked like
it was solvent again. It's the perception; you gotta get
rid of them zeroes."
"But Mexico wasn't really solvent", I countered. "In fact,
there are more poor folks in Mexico today than there were
when Mexican money had all those zeroes."
"Who cares about the reality?" he smiled happily. "Like
I said, it's the perception that counts, the perception.
P-E-R, C-E-P, T-I-O-N-E", he began singing. The tune was,
M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E.
"Perception doesn't have an 'e' on the end." I said.
"It may not have had an 'e' before, but it has one now.
How do you expect it to fit into the Mickey Mouse song
without the 'e' on the end? If I say that 'perceptione'
has an 'e' on the end it has a Goddam 'e' on the end, ya
"All right, all right." I wondered if he was about to
get violent or, maybe to sic his cops on me.
"You betcha", he grumbled. "That's part of the problem
with you independent media types. You insist on facts.
Facts are no different than non- facts. Non- facts are as
good as facts. Without non-facts, there would be no facts
and vice versa, get my drift? Without vice there would be
no virtue, I mean versa, and without versa, there would be
no vice, and vice versa too. I am the vice and the virtue.
I am the sense. I am the nonsense. I am the Walrus, I mean
the Wizard, kookookaroo."
"No ****, Sherlock", I took quick advantage of one of my
few opportunities. "What was that stuff all about, that
stuff about 'above the line' or 'below the line'?"
"My, my. Your lack of knowledge of what goes on in the
rarified atmosphere of international finance is so evident.
I do risk management, like that Japanese Zero, I mean
Japanese yen thing, or was it yin? Maybe it was yang. I
don't have to put up with this crap. I could be in the
Cayman Islands, or in Montevideo. Anyhow, here goes. When
it's above the line it's different than when it's below the
line. When it's above the line, we look bad. When it's
below the belt, I mean below the line, we look good."
"But which is the right way, the generally accepted
principles of accounting way of doing it?" I asked.
"Who cares?" he snapped. "We are a sovereign country. We
make the rules. I, I mean we, already have all the money I
need. If they want it above the line, that's their problem.
I want it below the line and below the line it will stay."
"What about VOIP? Will it be possible to use it in
Belize? What about the $50,000 apiece that two companies
gave your Government on the strength of the PUC's
promises?" I kept trying to get a straight answer from
him, knowing all the while that it was futile. How can you
get a straight answer from a crooked brain?
"Promises, shmomises", the Wizard was really burning
now. "Don't count your eggs before they turn into
dinosaurs. What is this thing about new technology? Who
needs new technology? The old technology was good enough
for my generation. These people made a huge investment in
me, I mean we, and they have to continue to be able to
support allawi in the PUP. When the price of gas goes outta
sight, walk or ride a bicycle! Get a horse. You got
transport, a lawnmower and fertilizer all in one. The poor
have no bread? Then let them eat wind pie and breeze
sandwiches. Isn't Allawi gonna be the next big time guy in
"You know that you're really hard to understand", I
tried again to get something concrete out of him.
Madam Speaker understands me. I do it my way. Of course
I'm not gonna run, because I'm gonna run. Excuse me. It's
time to run, I mean to go." He walked quickly down the
hallway and I could hear him singing as he faded away into
the proverbial distance.
"And now, the end is near, and so I face that final
"I did what I had to do, my money's safe, of that I'm
"It's time to go away and soon I'll travel down that
"But more, much more than that, I stole it my way."
* The Mitsubishi built "Zero" was the best fighter plane in
the Pacific during the early part of WW II.