REPORT #297 June 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

The Government of Belize after a very slow start is fast catching up with e-government! New web sites for different government departments are sprouting up weekly. Information is getting better, details more reliable and the web sites are phenomenal in high quality.

E-government though, still has a long way to go in Belmopan. There was a recent blurb in the media, whereby the Cabinet of Government has just re-instated the process of departmental annual reports. Presumably they will also re-instate annual department budgets? No! I am not joking, this is real!

It might be interesting to see monthly department statistics on the internet also? Money spent, projects checked off that are scheduled for this year's appropriation spending and so forth? Are we asking for too much?

That might be too much to ask for the kind of government that Belize operates in this sleepy laid back country, where everything governmental is controlled by a handful of political professional "leader" politicians, from only one of the six district towns. Equal opportunity in government management is a despised word by the exploiters of the nation from this old port town, once the old colonial capital and still the capital in political exploitive control. Democracy is still unheard of in the nation of Belize, unless you could count the 5 year election to vote for which townie run political gang you want to run the whole country like a private corporation, or agricultural plantation? The current PADRON is Said Musa, a lawyer from the old port town.

While the web based government information services are getting better, there are still no statistics on the web. You can't look at the budget figures ( probably because there are no budgets?) Nor can you run through a list of department employees and politicians and see how much money they are being paid in salaries and expenses and such. That stuff is still secret, though not so much secret as for a lack of information even among themselves. I guess they are just out to siesta. In a country where the treasury is a piggy bank, that politicians can just dip in their sticky fingers, accountability is not a big item! Still, the government is getting better in putting information and propoganda on the internet. They still don't answer e-mails ( busy travelling around the world " to conferences"), notwithstanding nowadays, with a computer, Alta Vista or many other choices of conferencing, audioplayers-speakers, visual from cameras on top of the computer, you can do the same thing-FREE without ever leaving your government office!

The complaints are still coming in, as late as last week, that the Minister of Finance, Ralph Fonseca doesn't answer his e-mails. Nor does apparently the Telecommunications Monopoly for people seeking server space. Emory King is quoted as answering, but promised to pass on information, but never did; but then Emory is an old man and private person, he can do what he wants. People on the government payroll though, you would think they would get with it and start providing service.

Despite the outer glamour of a few new websites, that are very impressive and a rising educated civil service, many now with self taught 'html' copying skills, or knowledge of 'Front Page' for web page manufacturing, the business of government accountability and transparency on the web is still a far off gleam of an idea. This is not the USA for sure. But a few people in government are trying, despite the obstacles! The hammock is tempting in the lazy tropical sun. Writing fictional departmental reports, compiling statistics and such, are such a bother! I mean it is hot out there! It was bad enough in the old days, when a new broom, or political gang from the port town would come into office and insist on a five year accounting. But doing monthly statistics and learning to make a departmental, or working unit web page? I don't think we are going to see that too soon, after all, this is Belize mon! This is not the USA.

The basic government propoganda web pages though are well done. Congratulations! See you in 20 years for the next installment!

Absolutely do not hold your breath and expect to file your income tax by the web. Or get a gun permit, or a marriage license, or a boat license, or tourist guide license by the web. Now that is asking way too much!

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