FOUNDATION GRANTS FOR SCHOOL COMPUTERS
One has to wonder if our Prime Minister, Said Musa has ordered his Education Department GRANTS OFFICE, to send a Grant Proposal to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, requesting ten computers for each of the schools in Belize. About 4000 computers in all. Plus additional funds to wire the schools and hook them up with telephones? If the U.K. Can get $4 million USA as a gift, why can't Belize? There must be a sales pitch here, if the Prime Minister really wants to speed up his school computerization program.
One wonders sometimes, how many decades more it will take, before we get Government democratically by legislation, rather than by Government Fiat, or Ministerial or Cabinet Decree?
Last year, one example coming in by Coconut Telegraph, sort of fourth hand information. We were never actually able to confirm, or deny the story, as the Corozal Free Trade Zone doesn't answer e-mails, nor does anyone else in government. ( Are they afraid?) The story went like this! An investor ( foreign ) spent all of last year of 1999, trying to set up a telephone thingy and Internet Service Provider in the Corozal Free Trade Zone. Much research went into this and even the Belize Business Bureau, or whatever they are called, sent me a copy of the relevant legislation, affirming this was possible. Anyway, as the story goes, the foreign investor spent the year trying to get the permit, or license. In and out of court. Of course, the decision was already known in Belmopan before the request was even made. ( Probably protecting Glen Godfrey's project from competition?) But in the nature of Caribbean and African style government, investors are to be fleeced of their money first. This is a well established racket around the Caribbean governments and in Belize as well. Been around for 40 years. It cost the investor, so the story goes, one year of his life, probably $20,000 or $30,000 in various legal fees and travel expenses. You know the racket? The recommendation is some law firm, who is CONNECTED to the PUP government, or the UDP government as the case may be, depending who is in office for the current term. They then procrastinate, ( fees up front of course ) and proceed to lie and delay and continue to offer HOPE, all the while demanding more money for those hours spent and so forth. The racket is well established in Belize of fleecing foreign investors by law firms. Eventually, when the investor draws the line and sets a finish date, or runs out of money; then the Cabinet, or the Minister denies the application for permit, or license offered by the legislation.
What democracy means, is a government by legislation! In this example, legislation said, if an investor met certain criteria, he could do a telephone thingy and Internet Service Provider thingy in the Corozal Free Trade Zone. But as in many African countries and around the Caribbean, legislation in Belize is a joke! They are for punishing the small guy, gaining revenue in fines and things from the politically unconnected and to be used to punish your political opposition.
Now the USA is made of 50 states, and they do not all have the same style of governments. But in many of them, they govern by legislation. Some don't have Cabinets and some do. But in those that do, the Cabinet Minister can only act according to the law, or the legislation. He does not have free will, or ability, like in Belize, or African countries. There is no such thing as Ministerial Decree, or Cabinet Decree. The citizens do not like the legislation, then lobbying to elected representatives, sees that it is debated and corrected. But the cabinet and Minister cannot do anything other than apply the law.
A good example of this was at the Federal level with Janet Reno, Attorney General and application of the law with the little boy Elian case. While she knew what she wanted to do, the process was available and must be decided by law, not by Janet Reno. She had to act according to law and if the law is not good enough, then you have elected representatives whose job it is, to change it and make it workable. Not so in Belize. We do not govern by law! We govern by Ministerial or Cabinet Fiat, or Decree! The law is there, but that hapless investor of last year in the CFTZ got milked just like many hundreds before him over the decades, thinking that the law was on his side and he would be able to do something, because the Belizean law said so.
It is time that Belize became a nation of laws. And that legislation actually ruled Ministers and the Cabinet if we keep them. That their ability to have Ministerial, or Cabinet Discretion, be taken away from them, and that the Elected Representatives rule Belize through making laws. When there is an argument, the Courts should decide on intrepretation, not a Cabinet Minister, or a Cabinet.
Democracy means government by law and legislation. Not by politicians with discretionary ability. This discretionary ability, if Belize is to develop, must go!
The rule of law, even applied to managers such as Cabinet Ministers, means that their duties are defined and limited. They do not have discretion outside of the law. This gives all people equal opportunity and is competitive in nature. That investor in our example, who got screwed by the Cabinet in Belmopan of the PUP, should have been able to do what he wanted to do by complying with the law. If they didn't want it to happen, then the rule of the legislature by changing the laws was the democratic thing to do.
It has come to our attention, that the poor country of Belize has no funds available to inspect and monitor the Shrimp Farms, or create Management Plans for the available topographical sites that are limited in scope for shrimp farming in the coastal zone of Belize. This is an ecological disaster just waiting to happen. Surely the Grant Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources can get a Grant to fund such air maps, overflights, and monitoring inspectors? What's the matter with you people? Loads of money out there for ecological things? Get your Grant department hustling!
Who was it, that said that famous quotation? Think it was Admiral Halsley in World War II, when needed to rescue another Carrier Fleet at some Pacific Battle.
When warned of Japanese submarines that might torpedo the aircraft carriers, he is reputed to have said something like this; "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!"
Prime Minister, Said Musa of Belize and the Cabinet are pretty much following in the same path as this quotation. In question are the much needed repairs to the infra-structure of Belize, from roads, to schools and so forth. Every department has been hurting. Why? Because there is no money and Belize is so small it cannot afford to do what it needs to do, to maintain the infra-structure.
Enter the Prime Minister and new PUP cabinet. Lack of money not withstanding, I have a sneaking admiration for his attitude and what is apparently a lack of concern for skeptics and critics, like me. In an artificial financed boom, of repairs and additions and building programs, from roads and colleges and schools and hospitals. You name it, there is a flurry of activity going on in Belize, repairing and patching and building of everything that is needed and has been neglected these last eight years or so. Temperate Zone countries don't realize that wear and tear in a tropical climate is three times more than that of their temperate zone climates. One year in the tropics on infra structure is like three years in Canada.
While I look around at what is being done, I cannot help but admire that they are doing it! My reservations are, that the cost is putting Belize into more than a billion dollars of foreign debt. Yet, I have to agree, what is being done, at least 85% of it, needed to be done and Belize could not and cannot really afford to do it. There is some featherbedding, mostly of port town folks, but nearly everything in the districts that is being done, needed to be done. Got to admire the man and party! "Damn the critics and full speed ahead!"
Looking on the dark side, the problem is that the Billion in foreign debt seems insurmountable. For someone who wants Belize to stand tall and proud, free of obligations to any country, foreign bank, or lending agency; that foreign debt which is paying for all this infra-structure upgrading and expansion is a worrisome chain and ball hanging around the neck.
Looking at the process, one can see, from past historical election party cycles over the last 40 years, that this whole situation is going to be exactly the same again in eight years time. The drawback is that the borrowing process to pay for it, is extended out anywhere from 24 years to 36 years in the future, according to government revenue projections and whose figures you use. No matter how you sugar coat it with Growth Economics blarney. New industries will start and old industries will fail, leaving Belize with insufficient government revenue to carry the load.
I would like on my WISH LIST, that the PUP spend the next three years, doing their damndest to get DEBT FORGIVENESS, LOAN BALANCES CHANGED TO GRANTS and so forth. If they could change that Foreign Debt into Grants, Belize just might have a chance of digging itself out of the financial hole. If not, I see no future for Belize, other than a continuing wall of debt for the next century. This worries me and I have no solution to offer.
In an article published in the Belize Times, on the internet. The Prime Minister's speech mentioned that he was not in favor of Belize becoming another South Florida. Nor did he want a million population. His idea of Belize is a small country with a high quality of living and recreational abilities.
Certainly agree with him on this one! ( Clap! Clap! Clap!)