by Charles Leslie Jr.
Chairperson of Placencia Village
From The Chairman’s Desk
September 26th, 2011

I would like to take this opportunity, on the day that he will be laid to rest, to acknowledge the Father of the Nation, our Premier Prime Minister Mr. George Cable Price, and what, I believe, he represents to Belize and all Belizeans during his time alive and what should continue posthumous.

Mr. Price entered politics in 1947 with his election to the Belize City Council. Only three years later, on September 29, 1950, he co-founded the People's United Party.

In my humble opinion Mr. Price was not all about politics and power; he didn't even want to be a politician. He was actually studying to become a priest and when that did not work out, his first employer introduced him to politics and this was in the late 1940's. Belize was in bad shape at that time. In his postliminary life after politics, and until the time of his recent passing; he lived an austere and humble lifestyle.

What spurred Mr. Price and a number of people to form the People's Committee, and subsequently known as the People's United Party; was the devaluation of the British Honduras dollar.

He was about fighting for and securing independence, freedom and sovereignty for the nation of Belize and Belizeans.

He never forgot who he was working for; for the people of Belize and always wanting to improve the lives of Belizeans and always ready to share whatever he had and he fought with everything he had, for the betterment of Belize.

He travelled around the country in those early days and met with the people of Belize, including my Grandmother the late Doris Leslie nee Eiley, who was the first Chairperson of Placencia Village. He met with people from all races and all districts. He was considered a very kind, approachable person. He would stop and talk to anyone that inquired a conversation of him.

He envisioned a pursuit of happiness and prosperity for Belizeans, free of colonial slavery, and he wanted us to become creators of our own manifest destiny.

Placencia came from a very humble fishing community; we have now become one of the top tourism destinations in Belize. From Hilltop Bar to Tentacles Restaurant we are now home to over a dozen restaurants and bars, over two dozen hotels, we have gift shops, tour operators, computer service business, a lawyer office, accounting firms and more – From vehicles bogging in the sandy roads, to wobbling over potholes and gravel and kicking up red dust on the dirt road, to cruising down the asphalt. There is no doubt that Placencia has come a long way.

However, with the leaps and bounds Placencia has made, I have to admit and acknowledge a dark side - a side of Placencia that is hardly ever discussed, and is almost taboo in most public conversations.

Before I elaborate, I want to establish a concept called Truth: What is truth? Truth can be considered a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like. Most people don't want to hear the truth. The truth on any topic is like the infamous elephant in the living room that no one wants to talk about and most don't want to see.

Yet, those giant piles of elephant excrement keep getting on everyone's shoes. So, many have no choice but to begin to contemplate that where there is crap, there is a crapper. And before one can get the elephant out of the room, you have to admit that there is one. Some people will sit with brown stuff running down their faces and look at you with a blank stare saying, "What elephant?" They don't even notice the manure. Some people will marvel at the manure that keeps spontaneously generating out of thin air and blame it on someone, anyone or anything else. However, if you are the type of person that is wondering what kind of beast keeps splattering people and why isn't anyone on the mainstream media in Belize talking about it? Then you are the type of person that is ready for some truth.

As I mentioned earlier, the Father of the Nation fought for independence and freedom, especially from our colonial slave masters. However, I am afraid that our old colonial slave masters have been replaced by new, modern slave masters. These slave masters are more clandestine and acumen in their tactics.
The architects of modern day enslavement of the people of Belize have been establishing their infrastructure since 1894; starting with the Belize Board of Commissioners of Currency with the passing of the torch to the Belize Monetary Authority in 1976 and most recent in 1982; the Central Bank of Belize - a privately own bank.

This was the biggest mistake we have made in our independent history, and that mistake was the passing of the Central Bank of Belize Act in 1982, which is fashioned after the Bank of England. This Act slithered in under the guise that it was needed so that we could move closer to Belize's political independence; however, this Act (in)advertently gave way to an oligarch of banking institutions who practice unregulated, predatory, usurious and unfair banking practices, which have been slowly and incrementally enslaving our people with the chains of DEBT.

The Central Bank of Belize’s Monetary Policies states: “Power to control interest rates. Under the Central Bank of Belize Act (1982), the Bank has the power to announce the maximum or minimum rates of interest and other charges that commercial banks may impose for specific types of loans, advances or other credits and pay on deposits. However, the Bank has opted not to use this as a tool of monetary policy but to let market and competitive forces determine interest rates.” An analogy: putting a bunch of rats in a cheese factory and telling them to regulate themselves.

What is Usury/Usurious? Usury or usurious, in modern day definition: is the practice of lending money at exorbitant interest rates. The Bible states in the book of Proverbs 28:8, “He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.” What is an unjust gain? It is a general equitable principle that a person should not profit at another's expense.

Judge Kenneth Gale has been ringing warning bells since 2009; warning the Government of Belize, that if they did not pass a usury law, our country’s economy would collapse.

In 2009 Judge Gale wrote an article in The Reporter newspaper and I quote an excerpt, “A usury law is the simple and easy answer to Belize’s high interest rate problem.

The true implication of the destructive interest rates charged by Belize’s banks became clear during the October 20, 2009 program on Channel 7 when the Governor of the Central Bank, Glenford Ysaguirre, spoke. The present Governor of the Central Bank has years of experience at a high level in the banking business. He is a person of unquestionable integrity.

The Governor talked about the high interest rates of 9% and 10% paid by banks on deposits. He stated that he would attempt to have such interest paid reduced to around 41⁄2%. However, 41⁄2% is still nearly 3 times the average interest rate presently paid on deposits by banks in the States.

Certificates of deposits normally receive the higher interest rates in the States. Presently, they are only receiving 1.7% interest.”

In another article, Judge Gale also wrote and I quote an excerpt, “The Prime Minister spoke about giving the Central Bank power to fix interest rates. Such a move is not practical. Only the banks should have the power to fix interest rates. However, the Government of Belize has the power to enact a law that fixes the maximum interest rates that can be charged by banks. Such a law is referred to as a usury law and is used by many countries.

Demonstrating some apprehension, the Prime Minister points out that the banks are Foreign Banks that might be scared off and that they may pick up their marbles and disappear. The best thing that could happen for banking would be that at least two (2) of the present five banks pick up their marbles and disappear. One of the problems is that there are too many banks in Belize cutting up the pie. Therefore, they increase the interest rates to spread the profits around. In a city in the States that only had a population of 320,000 there would probably be only one bank. It would be a branch bank.

The paramount problem, that has plagued Belize, has been the lack of an effective leader. An effective leader is one who puts the interest and welfare of the people of Belize above all competing interests.

The Prime Minister now has the opportunity to prove that an effective leader has finally arrived.” Since 2009, Judge Kenneth Gale wrote a total of 4 articles in 3 different newspapers on this subject matter.

To date, nothing significant has changed, except for teaser interest rates and some reduction on interest in CDs with a lowering compensation in loan interest rates, but nothing to cause real cogent change – the pillaging and unfair practices continue, mostly, unabated and unfettered – read your weekly newspaper of choice for proof, look under the ever growing, foreclosure section.

Here we are today, with approximately 43% of Belizeans in severe poverty, which translates to 143,276 Belizeans and 23% unemployed, which translates to 76,636 Belizeans.

At the current rates of unemployment, we may, in the near future add these Belizeans to the number of Belizeans that are already under the poverty line, which can translate to 219,912, which is 66% of the population of Belize. It is also interesting to note that almost half of our population is less than 18 years old. Therefore, theoretically, in the near future, we can have 100,000 +/- children and teenagers under the poverty line – look at the crime rate, at current, among our young people – too much lack a decent education, a future and are frustrated and basically functioning on survival instincts. Imagine what it would be like if the current rate of young people, under the poverty line, is increased by 23% – those are possibilities I do not want to imagine.

We now witness, on a weekly basis, iconic Belizean businesses closing their doors at an alarming rate and following with them, hundreds of Belizeans out of a job. Belizeans are losing their homes and the most valuable thing our forefathers have fought for to left to us - our land and our natural resources, at an even more alarming rate.

In Placencia alone, I have been observing an average of 5 born Placencians per year losing their homes and/or businesses to bank foreclosures or they are trying to sell out and leave and will, more than likely, end up victims of sedentary and servitude life styles. All because of predatory, usurious and unfair banking practices and policies, that turns pebbles carried in the hand, into huge boulders that bleed the lifeblood out of people.

Update: It is very interesting to note that the Central Bank has a brand new website, with some very interesting change of words. What caught my eyes; fell under the section “Monetary Policy” subheading “Monetary Policy Tools.”
- On September 4, 2011 it read: “Power to control interest rates. Under the Central Bank of Belize Act (1982), the Bank has the power to announce the maximum or minimum rates of interest and other charges that commercial banks may impose for specific types of loans, advances or other credits and pay on deposits. However, the Bank has opted not to use this as a tool of monetary policy but to let market and competitive forces determine interest rates.”
- As of September 22, 2011 it now reads: “The Bank can use direct and indirect policy tools to influence the supply and demand of money.”

I know, I know, some must be saying, "This is all depressing and our nation has just turned 30 years old and we are celebrating our independence and mourning the passing of the Father of the Nation."

However, I simply cannot sit by tacitly and pretend that this is not a clear and present danger for the people of Placencia, for the people that voted for me in May 2010 to be their leader, to speak on their behalf and protect them from tyrants. Many have visited my office since my inception and I assure you, I hear your cries and I personally know your pain and frustrations.

That is why, I ask the people of Placencia to embrace the ideals of the Father of the Nation, Mr. George Cadle Price, and stand up for yourselves, stand up for each other and let’s stop our reticent suffering, for when one suffers in our community, we all suffer, and that is why I am in the process of forming a coalition called People Against Usury, so that there can be a support group, a single voice that can advocate for fairness and equality and the elimination of predatory, usurious and unfair banking practices and policies.

We need to put a stop to this modern day enslavement. We need to protect our children and grandchildren from a faith worse than death - and that is enslavement by DEBT.

On January 11, 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt the then President of the United States of America made a speech to Congress on the State of the Union. I quote an excerpt from that message, "We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous (needy) men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all - regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:
- The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
- The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
- The right of every family to a decent home;
- The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
- The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
- The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security."

President Roosevelt didn’t want these rights only for his people, but for all people across the world; for these are fundamental rights that everyone should have to be secure.

I see hardly any of these rights in Belize today. I see too much hardship, pain, suffering, and frustration.

I blame no one single person for this, for that burden lies on everyone’s back in this nation, from our leaders down to the individual citizen. Our passiveness and lack of paying attention to the aberrations of other nations; has costs us dearly.

In conclusion; I would like to say that our Nation might be a struggling 30-year-old, but we are also a determined 30-year old. I would like to thank everyone who goes above and beyond to make Placencia what it is today. And we have to do as our forefathers did and acknowledge the elephant in the room and honor their victory that made us free from tyrants on that 21st September of 1981, by doing as they did – giving more of ourselves and doing what is good for our fellow brothers and sisters – for our children and grandchildren.

This year’s theme is “Honoring our History, Celebrating our Cultures, Uniting for Peace." I would like to add, “Standing against tyrants” for Thomas Jefferson had articulated it eloquently, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Rest In Peace Mr. Price; it is a great honor to have you as my forefather and the Father of the Nation I call home. I am Belize. We are Placencia Proud.