REPORT #361 August 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Taiwan has been a good friend to Belize. Recently, diplomats on a tour of Central America from Taiwan are complaining of extortion and insults by some Central American countries. Admittedly, Taiwan is investing money into Central American countries to buy support in the United Nations. But does this commercial deal have to turn so crass?

Nicaragua is being accused of "shaking down" the Taiwanese for more money. President Francisco Flores of El Salvador snubbed Taiwan by cancelling plans to attend Chen's inauguration. But El Salvador did allow mainland China's ambassador to Mexico to tour El Salvador this summer. Guatemala also declined a visit by Chen. Chen Shui-bian is the new president of Taiwan. Panama also rejected any stopover in that country by the new Taiwanese president. This, after blackmailing a $30 million loan out of Taiwan.

Taiwanese say they expect for their money and aid; continued diplomatic recognition, support for the island's readmission to the United Nations and the opportunity for state visits that demonstrate that some governments in Central America regard Taiwan as a full fledged nation rather than a province of mainland China.

Belize probably identifies more than most of our neighbours with the small nation identification support needed by Taiwan. Plus, I would certainly hope that our word as a nation is good. If you promise something, you should deliver. I do it myself and I expect Belize to do it also. The trouble is, foreign policy in Belize is run by three people in the PUP party, irregardless of what discussion, debate or other views are held by anyone else in the country of Belize.

Like most other countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America using autocratic centralized governing styles, we also in Belize are head over heals in debt. While it would be nice if Taiwan would give our lousy financial managers in politics, debt forgiveness, I certainly don't think the issue should be raised to the level of extortion, or blacmail. It would be nice if Taiwan would give us debt forgiveness, but if they won't, then we shall just have to manage otherwise. Perhaps, by changing spendthrift borrowing people who run for political office? Debt is our problem internally, the people and characters we have in running our government who are responsible. It is not Taiwan's problem.

Politicians running countries into huge foreign national debts under autocratic, one party winner take all political systems are widespread around the third world. But responsibility starts at home. Blaming manufacturing countries does not solve anything, or offer any cures to future similar repetitions. Only political restructuring can do that.

There is a big debate going on about the debt of Ecuador right now. Some creditors are willing to write off some parts of foreign loans and others are not. Ecuador and its over $20 Billion in debt is a quagmire. The question I find fascinating, how could it have got so big? But then, the same could be asked about the Belize Foreign National Debt. We have Fonseca and Musa spending borrowed money like it was an endless bucket. But someday, the money faucet is going to get turned off. Will they be around in politics then to take the heat when the country turns into another suffering Ecuador? Unlikely!

Looking at all these third world countries and extrapolating from our own situation in Belize, it is obvious to common sense thinking, that the problem is the political system. When you give a winning political party, total autocratic control of a nation with no checks and balances, you are obviously going to have trouble. Amazingly enough, it is the main town, or city in all these third world ex-colonies under this current system that has a bunch of ne'erdo wells running the financial system. They are so overeducated and so lousy at business, they have had to go into politics to earn enough money by salary, graft and expense accounts to support their families. Here at home in Belize, we would be far better off with cane farmers, lobster fishermen and other rural producers running the country than the overeducated town dwellers.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike, has been in office of Sri Lankar under the same political system we use in Belize, for the past 40 years. She is retiring at age 84. The political party system "winner take all" allows a leader, of a party to dictate the format of how a ruling party will autocratically run a nation and the party and the nation quickly becomes a reflection of the political growth, maturity and beliefs of the party leader. In Belize, we currently have Prime Minister Musa and Belize policies are his policies as a person. Not that of a consensus of rural producers from each geographical district, which would make more sense and equitable system of policy making with more common sense, after suitable debate and bargaining compromise solutions.

Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka was a member of a wealthy family in the city. Back then, the place was called Ceylon. Her husband became Prime Minister, he eventually got assassinated by a Bhuddist monk and she went into politics. Her learning curve in politics swung from one extreme to another, carrying all the Ceylonese with it, whether they wanted to be or not. She was a ruthless Prime Minister, a lot like our George Price was. First, she was a rightist politician Prime Minister, later she turned to leftist policies. Carrying all the Ceylonese along with her, as under this political system, just like Belize, we are slaves of the moods and opinions of one person running the winning political party. Democracy and geographic consensus have no part in governing under our system of autocratic political structure. She got involved with the China and India thing and played out the cold war scenario by closing down the Israeli Embassy. Two years later she made the country a Republic. It didn't change much! She nationalized private companies and church schools. Imports were banned. Many Sri Lankans remember the long starving queues for bread and rationing of basic necessities, such as rice and cloth, just like today in Cuba under dictator Castro. She used the military to ruthlessly crush opposition. In 1971 she used the military to kill as many as of her 20,000 of her own citizens. There was no room for debate, or any referendums, or opposition for those wanting to put policies to the democratic process of discussion and voting.

The problem under this system, is that the country or nation is run as a reflection of an autocratic party leader, who becomes Prime Minister. It took George Price our old Prime Minister, 18 years in office to finally become as educated as Philip Goldson in government. Wasted years for Belize even though he finally got there. George's political governing education ran from a province of Guatemala and Central America scenario to Caribbean and Commonwealth and finally an independent Belize. The trial and error learning curve for him was long though ( 18 years ). In the meantime the persecution in Belize while bad, was relatively mild by Sri Lankan comparisons, but only because we had such a very small inter-related population. If you had given George Price millions of population in Belize to govern, he would have been just as ruthless as Prime Minister Lady Sirimavo Bandarainake in Sri Lanka.

If your common sense doesn't tell you there is something wrong in having a "winner take all political party" run a nation and a political party leader who can use patronage within the party to keep control and borrowed foreign loans to pacify the general population, then you need to re-think about your nation of Belize and the future.

Right now, the PUP are just finishing up their second year in office for this five year term. Have you learned anything from contempary Belizean History? If you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. If you look at the cycles of five year terms by winning political parties, you will know, that the next three years are going to be a disaster for the PUP. Why? Because in two years they blow their wad, shoot off their ammunition. All their manifesto ideas are either done, or being done. They will run out of ideas and slip for the last three years of their autocratic ruling term into a mode of REACTION ORIENTATED POLITICS. Dealing with crisis as each new one arises. Elected party representatives will become bored and dulled by repetition and lack of goals and slip into schemes of getting rich personally using their government positions and opportunities. That has been the political history of Belize since Self Government days for all parties in power.

Common sense says the five year term is too long. That the best the PUP currently have to offer is now over in two years. That is the historical fact! What would you do to enhance the growth of the nation knowing these things? Would staggering elected representatives and having them run for office after two years do any good? Would a lottery for the legislature be appropriate, so that for the next three years, one third of the elected representatives had to re-run for office each successive year? There must be some way to get new ideas, enthusiasms, energy and new people and keep the nation moving forward, instead of wasting the next three years. Two years forward and three years backward is what we have had historically in our five year political cycles. What answer do you have to this problem?

How can you get cabinet management by geographic consensus? How can you change Belize to a nation of laws and legislation, rather than ministerial decree mischief and privilege? If you want to build a nation, you are going to have to start with the political organization and election structure.

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