By William (Mike) Campbell BRS

(Editor's note: Mike Campbell is a declared independent candidate seeking to become the area representative for the Belize Rural South constituency. His views, opinions, et cetera are his own and not necessarily those of The Independent.)

Belize has been done a great disservice by both parties. As both parties have been so consumed with private agendas the needs of the country have been left in the dirt. We have only had reactive governments. They react to whatever is happening at the moment and totally lose sight of the big picture. Certainly, they pay lip service to the concept of the greater good while continuing their quest for money and power. They have defaulted on their primary responsibility as leaders, which is planning for the future of the country.

The lack of planning and inconsistency contributed greatly to our economic disaster. Neither party has ever had a comprehensive development plan and is totally dependent on world economic trends. Each and every industry is underdeveloped and no thought is given to the maximization of our resources or the potential relationships of the industries to each other.

For centuries Belize has been pillaged of its natural resources without much benefit to the country. First it was the logwood that was removed followed by the exploitation of mahogany and the marine resources. Now there is no logwood and poor planning and incursions by the Guatemalans have depleted the mahogany and the fishing industry is on the ropes. Rosewood is moving rapidly down the same path.

We are still stripping our country of assets at a time when we are at an economic crossroads. The decisions we make now will have a big influence on our future as a nation. A primary ingredient in economic activity is the availability of raw materials to produce finished goods for sale. Historically we have sold our raw materials to others who then add value by processing and manufacturing and make much more profit from our raw materials than we do ourselves. All the rosewood that we are so concerned about is shipped abroad where others turn it into fine furniture that is sold for top dollar while we sell it for a pittance. Most often the exporters of the raw materials are by foreign corporations who are quite willing for us to sell them our future for pennies on the dollar and indeed these raw materials are our future. When they are gone what is left except young people without work?

Our precious lobster is sold by the ton with no thought being given to making the most of this resource. Our sugar is of such low quality that it is sold to others who then re-refine it to make a better product and higher profit. Petroleum is yet another example of the rapid depletion of our resources without benefit being derived by the citizens of Belize. Xate leaves and other rainforest products are stolen or exported without much benefit to the country. Fish is being exported as a raw material to others who will process it and make the money that could be ours if we had meaningful economic strategies in place.

We must develop industries based upon our raw materials with every effort being made to conserve and maximize the value of these resources. We should be adding value to raw materials before exporting them. No rosewood should be exported until it has been turned into a finished product, fine furniture being one such product. Our lobster could be packaged in retail size and sold to major food chains. We could have a Xate and rain forest ornamentals industry.

We could process our fish and then sell to Jamaica and abroad. We could produce ISO sugar that could be used to fuel a fruit beverages industry. We have the potential to have a stand-alone economy that has interlocking industries that add value to our existing resources resulting in more foreign exchange by increasing the value of our exports. Through development of these types of industries we can create jobs and generate wealth using only the resources we have at hand without borrowing one copper.

The Independent