REPORT #70 June 1999

Produced by the Belize Development Trust
Small countries need many resources from outside their national boundaries. In order to produce wealth, quality of life and stability, the idea of sovereignty has only a limited value for citizens in small countries.

Elites in such small societies like Belize, concentrate in the largest town; they dominate the political and governing process to serve their own ends. They control not only the productive sector of rural voters, but want to domesticate and control through a centralized government regulatory process, even external influences.

Small countries are usually overly regulated, bureaucratized and centrally controlled. Federal organized countries are more accustomed to rule making at multiple levels. Federalism structures arrange rules and regulations and policy making among a number of smaller relatively autonomous and more open political systems.

The central tenet of Federalism hypotheses, is that learning is a key mechanism through which political orientations are shaped and economic success assured. Belize has two perfect examples of such opposing political structures. The Belmopan government is heavily centralized and regulates the citizenry to the point of obstructionism, by a town elite. And has failed miserably on the business economic front over the last 35 years. The learning process has been shown by casual subjective studies, to be a cyclical process. Repeated over and over again, mistakes, warts and pimples, time and again. It takes aboaut 3,- five year terms in office to produce a competent Prime Minister and Cabinet. If they run consecutively the learning cycle takes 15 years. If the three terms are spaced by 5 year opposition party terms, it takes the learning process 25 years to produce a competent Prime Minister and Cabinet in Belize. About the time a political party government gets good, the leaders who have gone through such a long trial and error learning process are ready to retire from old age. Not only is the 5 year term too long, inspiration and the party manifesto have usually been accomplished in the first twelve to eighteen months. The balance of the political term is wasted; as the leadership/ruler participants turn into a more relaxed reactive mode solely responding to emergencies and becoming involved with personal wealth making corruption.

On the other hand, the more Federalist style Belize Co- operatives in which Managing Committees ( Cabinet equivalent) are rotated regularly on staggered schedules and have very limited constrained policy making rules and checks and balances from the member/citizen/voters, and fare much better. The political and policy making mistakes take about the same length of time, thirteen to fifteen years, but since policy making is subject to voter approval and controls, the learning process is spread throughout the Federalist member/citizen/voters. Responsibility always falls on the population/voters and not the managing committee ( Cabinet equivalent). Once learned the lessons stay! Constantly changing managing committee ( Cabinet equivalent ) members have no effect on the learning process of member/voters, and hard learned lessons and economic facts of life are passed from generation to generation, in a continous improving process. It is only occasionally the same economic mistake is made twice. But very rare for such a mistake to occur three times. Not so in cyclical political party Belmopan style government. The same mistakes are made by every new group of incoming political party representatives.

The conclusion is; that Federalistic style political learning mechanisms are faster performing, continually growing and are 10,000% better than re-teaching new politicians from a town elite, in an endless repetitive cycle of repeated mistakes and learning the same lessons by new generations of ruler/leaders. For economic growth, wealth, stability and quality of life, the studies of Belizean Comparative Politics indicate that the governing structure of the nation, districts, and towns, need to be changed to a multi-layered Federalist model for success in the next century.

It is very difficult to alter the values of a bureaucrat. It is much easier to get the right people in place and to keep them there, but this requires the power to hire and fire. What kills the good intentions of town elites as ruler/leaders in a monopolistic political party, rubber stamp legislative system, is the lethargy, bureaucratic inertia, and centralized power of small country political structures. It works the same in larger countries. A common phenomena are leaders who are intelligent, charismatic and socialist in ideals. They wish the best for the country poor, but inevitably as time progresses through the first term of office and usually by the end of the second term of office; the lethargy of trying to work with inefficient centralized bureaucracies makes them so frustrated with the pace of progress, that they turn to increasing rule by decree ( at least in the seven Central American countries).

It is a fascinating study by political scientist scholars, to follow the inevitable process of seeing well meaning leader's/Prime Minister's who originally start out with the greatest of ideals and end up by being turned into tyrants and dictators.

The answer of course, is a Federalistic multi-layered structure, in which local government and peer pressure, control a more limited and localized version of the bureaucracy. When the bureaucrat knows the name, family relatives in smaller versions of local government and can be changed if not performing correctly, by the disatisfied citizen sitting across the desk, through a local complaint campaign, performance of the bureaucracy increases. Efficiency rises, misfits are quickly replaced by someone more competent.

The problem lies with the nature of a charismatic, ambitious, hard driving leader/Prime Minister accustomed to getting things done by a "hands on" approach. The very nature of economic and long term socialistic success requires the opposite approach. A "hands off" approach, leadership by logic and publicity. Letting local people manage their own affairs and making their own decisions and if necessary, mistakes. Learning is a key mechanism of good politics. But, it must not be confined to a handful of people in only one political party. The process must be wide spread nationwide, a responsibility that goes with each voter on every policy issue. This is the basic meaning of participatory democracy.

Charismatic leadership/Prime Minister's tend to rule by the legitimacy of their personality. They push, pontificate and decree what a political course of national policy will be, with appropriate references to foreign advisors and study committees as justification. Their party usually identifies with this type organization, based on strong personality. The politicaly party and the influence nationwide, tend to oeprate on a patronage- based clientelism. This is not democracy! Even if this process starts out with good socialist intentions, it quickly deteriorates into corruption and nationwide anarchy, with a rise in public criminality.

The role played by the Prime Minister in patronage political parties is distributional. Cabinet Ministers manage the distribution of resources within their realms of control and responsibility. Prime Minister's in such organizations are paternal. They maintain their positions not only by controlling party and national resources through party activists, but also by negotiating the distribution of resources with the party's other patrons. Thus what we get, is a dictatorship, emerging as a patronage-based leadership. The party then becomes identified by immediate devotion to the "all powerful" leader. Loyalty to the leader representing the party, particularly charismatic personality leadership by a political party is the result. This is not democracy!

Belize Development requires a more broad based voter controlled political structure, than that of one winning political party rule. Multi-layered government using Federalistic checks and balances answers this development need. Political parties operating within such a Federalistic structure usually are non- charismatic personality orientated. They are thus more elastic and adaptable as a party to changing issues. Individual party members can speak for the party on a local level without need to consult other party leaders.

The problem facing Belize, is how can the reform of rules be achieved when the object of reform is the very body that controls the rules?

Town voters currently hold the swing vote in national elections in Belize. how can you re-structure the system to put the productive rural sectors on equal footing? Studies throughout the seven Central American countries have shown that community development organizations carry the most weight in demanding political action and reforms. Co-operatives are only interested and politically demanding of Belmopan, when the essence of their productivity is threatened. Otherwise they play no role in political reform and performance. The same result for Associations and the Chamber of Commerce branches. Civics Clubs like the Lions and Rotary play no part in a better running democracy. Studies also show that no church-related organization plays any active role in seeking greater democracy. Schools are constantly needing funding. Yet in none of the seven Central American countries from which these results are taken, have school organizations played any part in democracy building. Unions also fail to register as democracy demanding organizations. Community development groups stand out through all of Central America, as being the main force for improvement in political structure and greater broad based democracy.

Most people do not support the political system, or political reform, because they see it as a futile excercise against entrenched greedy political power predators. Persecution is an oft quoted result. Belize also suffers from this same attitude, as this month's nationwide tour of the Political Reform Commission will most likely find out.

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