REPORT #228 April 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Interesting question? What makes a person run for political office? What is the motivation? Among the people currently elected as our representatives; which among them, are sincerely dedicated to the cause of building a nation of Belize? On the other hand, which of them are taking advantage solely for the purpose of making more money and perks than they can in their regular home city civilian life? Which of them have any real life experience proven ability to do well in private business, or running the business of the nation of Belize?

The voting electoral system we inherited from colonial days, was the population system. The place with the most population gets the most places in the government. In our case, and that of many African countries and Latin American countries; this gives people who live in the cities the largest say in what happens to the country for the future. But is this wise?

You had many people represent Belizeans in the last government that were only in office for one term. Yet they not only got a very good salary by Belizean standards, foreign travel perks and other advantages. They also got a gratuity and a lifetime pension if they would quit. Most of them did just that. Set up for life at the expense of the voters and Belizean taxpayers because they were well paid to do a job only for five years. Now, that has to be called opportunistic. What would you call it? Would you categorize such people as rogues, scoundrels and scalliwags? Selfish self-interest and all that?

The problem with a national government dominated by a population center and in this case, the port Belize City crowd; is that it gives a slanted biased approach to building a nation. Indeed, one could argue after 40 years of experience, there is no real nation building going on at all. Most development can be attributed to individual entrepreneurial stubborness and pesistance despite the government. Debates over the last dozen years for a more democratic model, using district equal representation has been denied by these same Port town Belize City crowd. They have the population and they are taking advantage of the population representative system. To talk to some of them, you would think they are God's GIFT to Belize, they have such a swollen ego of their self worth. I myself, fail to appreciate their leadership as elected representatives. I just cannot buy the self made argument, that because they come from Belize City the port, they are smarter than anybody in the districts. It doesn't ring true!

How pray tell, can you equate the ability of some academic educated graduate of the Belize City St. John's College environment, with all their big words, ability to read and argue, rationalize and self justify their existance on the grounds of education. When they fail to make a decent living in the same port town of Belize City, which is their native cultural environment. Compared to some cane farmer with a Standard 4 education, thatched roof hut, with dirt floor and pigs in the pen behind, and a few chickens running around the front yard; who just incidently has $500,000 in the bank and 4 monstrous expensive John Deere Tractors in his cane fields and a half dozen 5 ton Bedford Trucks, all paid for with cash. How can you compare the two? Or compare the port city elected representative against an island fisherman with a standard 2 education, and 400 lobster traps, a restaurant, cable television network business and a two dozen room hotel. Now who would you choose to represent you in government and run your government business?

The rural districts of Belize and the 288 to 300 villages are full of intelligent self made men, who have far more ability and success in life from plain common sense experience and practicality, than the majority of those running the government, mostly coming from the port town of Belize City, because of it's population and the colonial electoral rules based on population representation.

Take the PUP manifesto for instance, in regards to the 10,000 houses they are going to build. The arguments on the debating Belize Culture List have been this is not a productive use of limited government financial resources. But from a political party that basically represents first and foremost, just the port town of Belize City population center it does make sense. They are going to build a town half way between the port and the capital Belmopan. So, many of them, can enjoy suburbia and not have to drive so far to get to work. Yet, there is no talk of building these 10,000 houses in Blue Creek- Toledo, Crique Sarco, San Pedro Columbia, Sittee River, San Estevan, Xaibe, St. Augustine Mountain Pine Ridge and so on. Why is that? Villagers can build their own houses they say. The government is run by port Belize City people. Their cultural background is town and city life. That is what they know. They like a village for a holiday, but as a way of life and an opportunity to make more money than they have ever dreamed of, with their supposedly fancy academic education from St. John's College, this they cannot see. What they want is the familiar and since they own the country of Belize, the government and the Treasury of tax revenues and foreign loan credit card, they are going to spend that money even if it puts the village rural producers into debt for years and years, and generation after generation, spent on the things with which they are familiar. Their particular milieu!

An environment and culture that they are accustomed to, is how they make cabinet policy decisions. Yet what is the best course for the future of Belizean development? Now there is a serious question? Of which, these intelligent ne'er do wells, will find lots of justifications, rationalizations and other excuses to do what they want to do, that is familiar and comfortable ( city style of course).

I would debate that this type of domination of the electoral voting system is contrary to the needs of Belize the nation and a much better job would be done on building a country with equal geographic representation by the six districts of the national government. Indeed, I would go so far as to say, the cabinet should be comprised of district ministers on equal representation by district and with equal gender representation.

In their heart of hearts these city representatives know this to be true also. St. John's College in the port city do not produce people who cannot think. So what motivates these people from the port town, to run for office and perpetuate an electoral system of national government that is biased and a proven failure after 35 to 40 years of working?

Is it selfish self-interest? Is it opportunistic? Is it the security of the best paid salaried jobs in the country? Is it as someone on the Belize Culture list has said, the treating of the nation of Belize and it's economic productivity as their 'private bank'. Do these city elected representatives regard themselves as Boards of Directors ( Cabinet ) of a public corporation, to be looted in the manner they see fit, without regard to the shareholders?

Is Belize being stunted by this bunch of apparent scalliwags, opportunists and rogues from the port town of Belize City who perpetuate this electoral system? How many of them are truly capable and dedicated servants of the "Public Trust" to manage the affairs of the country of Belize? A few must be, but the rest? Should the affairs of the country of Belize be given to a bunch of people through a population centered voting system?

The electoral system is more of a Boledo or Lottery for the port Belize City crowd. They run and win, either through default or otherwise, as the PUP did this last term through disatisfaction of mediocre the UDP caretaker government of last term. Not because of their manifesto. That manifesto is a joke, as is the 10,000 houses. It is a city manifesto for city people and of course the PUP know that, which is why they have it. That is where the voting control is under this electoral system. But those houses are not going to be built for villages in rural districts and not going to be built in rural districts to siphon off the poverty population from the overcrowded ghettos of the port town. It is only going to perpetuate more towns and city development, thus creating more social problems and more poverty.

Belize has no real poverty. The subject of which will be another report. In a tropical country where anyone can build their own house, or shelter and grow their own food, there is no poverty. Unless you equate poverty with lack of cash flow and material possessions from manufacturing countries. But there is poverty in the port Belize City, because these new generations of South Side have lost contact with their rural relatives in the villages, through city growth. You cannot live in a city without cash. That is a given. So, how do you return Belizeans back to village life instead of concentrating them into towns and cities? In a country that is short of cash, run by townies from the port who only know a cash economy, that apparently is not the way we are going. Why? Because our governing system is being used as a private corporation by a bunch of opportunists, to siphon off the productive foreign exchange earned by the rural districts and villagers.

To turn the direction of population growth and location around, back to villages, thus licking actual real poverty and starvation, we need to turn the national government around in it's course by 180 degrees. You cannot do that in an electoral system dominated by the townies. You have to change the electoral system to rural and village equality by districts. A geographic representation of national government. Then you would get 'managers' in Belmopan, not 'rulers'. You would get national representation, not population based port city run representation. The last thing we need is a bigger city and more cities. We have a small population and lots of land, lets use it too best advantage for the welfare of all citizens.

As the United Nations now say. The problem with countries like Belize, is poor governance systems. Belize has a poor governance system. A system of colonial inherited population representation which compounds errors and problems and creates poverty and social problems, starvation and real hardship through the creation of bigger and bigger city and towns, when in reality the dream of self-sufficiency both for the government and the nation and the individual, is their own spot of land on which they can live, no matter how scarce money may become. We have the financial resources, the land resources, the human resources, the technical resources. The problems are of our own making, perpetuated by the current population electoral representative system. Let's change it and get a balanced viewpoint in the cabinet of our government. A new set of priorities, a new paradigm of governing, more debate, more consensus and a more even district distribution of scarce national financial resources.

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