REPORT #257 May 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

The conflict between central planners, bureaucrats that want to expand their divisions is a never ending one. There is something about bureaucrats. They never have enough power, enough staff, enough money. Hence the downsizing periodically needed by any new government.

In this field, the Market Board Dinosaur of Colonial Times is throwing it's hat in the ring, for a round of expansion and authority. The Marketing Board is one of those relics from colonial times that has been surpassed by a free market economy. When you have a problem you tinker with the taxes and incentives to change things. The Marketing Board though is one of those antiquated relics that still hangs on in government circles, when it should have been dead and buried a long time ago.

In recent moves, the Marketing Board is seeking to resurrect itself in various agricultural fields with price controls, monopoly power and a host of foolish viewpoints, that should have died out thirty years ago. The latest gimmick is trying to corner the market on onions and potatos. Importers cry foul! Would be Mennonite Growers call foul! As Mennonite investors would like to grow both onions and potatos where possible, to meet local seasonal demand and importers would like to import to meet off season shortages (we don't have cool enough weather to store things), the marketing board has thrown it's hat in the ring as a monopoly government agency to control things.

Previously just a few months ago, there was a hue and cry to control beans and other things also. None of this is the government's business. They can help with tax breaks and other incentives, but when it comes to central marketing and pricing. Go take a hike will you? You are a hundred years behind the times. You should have disappeared with Queen Victoria.

The left hand of one government department, does not appear to know what the right hand of another government department is doing. There was a proposal to build a sub-division in wetlands and coastal swamp and lagoons on Ambergris Caye for a new subdivision or town. The survey lines are in, and pegs I am told. But how did that come to be? It is illegal! Wetlands are treasures to be protected. The original idea came from the Town Fathers of San Pedro. But how they got so far, in violation of a host of laws that are on the books is beyond me? I mean, they have cut down mangroves! That is against the law. They are proposing to fill in the nursery wetlands for marine sea food species in the food chain. That also is against the law. Where are the government enforcers when you need them? Surely, there are permits and procedures to go through and someplace a central organized office, that has a checklist to see everything is being done to meet the laws of Belize? What! You mean there is nobody doing this job?

An analogy would be of a Belmopan government being like a stagecoach in an old western movie. You have a runaway six horse team and stage coach. All six horses are trying to go in different directions and the reins are dragging along in the trail dust. Nobody is driving the stagecoach. Yet the stage coach and horses are racing toward a sharp turn and a steep cliff at the top of the mesa. Will everything get smashed?

Restaurant and hotel operators, are complaining that there is no equivalent law covering shrimp that must be sold locally at controlled prices; like for fish and lobster and conch. They cannot out of season compete with export prices for shrimp from local shrimp farms. Surely the amount of shrimp involved is relatively small. Some solution must be found. If lobster and scale fisherman must sell lobster at fixed local prices, presumably then must shrimp producers also. Fair is fair! Be fair, or drop all controls.

A note on this, if you think things are out of whack. You can buy Nova Scotia lobster 2000 miles away in Toronto, Canada, cheaper than you can buy the lobster where it is caught in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Sometimes government does not make any sense!

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