When the United Democratic Party (UDP) won National elections in 2008, they rode in on a promise of accountability and change. The Barrow administration made bold promises to change the system of governance. The Peoples United Party (PUP) was overshadowed with accusations of corruption, squandering of public funds and increased taxation. Barrow differentiated himself, to a populace grown weary of the Musa’s administration, by making a bold statement “As soon as it [corruption] rears its ugly head, I personally will cut it off…”
Fast forward 2016 and Belize is still faced with the exact same systematic deficiencies. Accusations of corruption, squandering of public funds and increased taxation, only now the people of Belize are apathetic and cynical about the political process and government. In fact, most cannot distinguish between political parties and government. The lines have been completely erased. People have absolutely no trust in the government and it shows. Sadly, the PUP lacks the credibility to address many of these issues because eight years later, they have refused to bring new blood into the party and the message is dead on delivery. The UDP continued success at the polls correlates with PUP failing to regroup and distance itself from the personalities that created their demise.
The entire process in Belize is about to implode if Barrow does not use this term to address the deficiencies and shortcomings of the governmental system. Elected officials cannot govern. Most are very popular personalities, with no idea of the intricacies and importance of governing. Their job ought to be representatives of their divisions. They should speak to the needs of the people who elected them and ensure that their respective divisions are duly represented and benefit from the limited resources of the country. The Cabinet suggests law, the House passes laws, the Public Service administers and implements the laws and the Judiciary examines laws.
Thirty-five years after independence and Belize politicians have eroded the system so much that it is now defunct. One person commented recently “If you need land, you have to see a minister, if you need a scholarship, you have to see a minister, if you need anything, it involves a minister”. Elected officials have created a system where they are involved in every facet of the system, exchanging public goods for political favors- causing a demise in the system.
The government of Belize is riddled with failure at every institutional level.The Belize banking system is facing outside regulatory oversight that could threaten the entire system; Belize seems to have become synonymous with money laundering. The medical system is atrocious to the point of inhumane. The hospitals are dilapidated and those who can afford it seek medical treatment outside of Belize and the unlucky citizens die untimely deaths. Crime and murder is outside the control of the police; the judiciary cannot keep up with the caseloads; people sit unconstitutionally on remand for years and the prosecution success rates are embarrassingly low where injustice prevails. The transportation system in Belize is disgraceful; the roads in Belize lack the necessary markings and structure and has become a weekly death trap. The nepotism and cronyism have skyrocketed- politicians and cronies splurge un-apologetically and arrogantly at the expense of the tax payers; immigration is out of control. The borders are porous and there is no ongoing enforcement. The education system has a lot to be desired with focus on the top performers but nothing for the average student. Children lack comprehension skills, mathematical and scientific skills. The average citizen cannot gain access to land ownership; foreigners with a few dollars more are given more privileges and access than Belizeans. Foreigners move to Belize, dominate the tourist and real estate industry and turn our people into a servant race. One person commented “it is better to be a foreigner or even an illegal alien in Belize, politicians will hook you up with citizenship and land papers”. The foreigners are reaping the benefits of the unregulated and corrupted jewel.
We inherited and perpetuated the British system. The British did not come to develop Belize; they came to Belize to rape it of its natural resources for the benefit of the crown. Our leaders have done the same except now it is for personal gain. It is not a coincidence that the deficiencies are so prominent that that there is a new issue on a regular basis where no serious attention can be given to any one thing. Belize will never be able to address its external threats until we fix what ails us internally. I call on the Barrow administration to end the spoils system, empower the public service; hire professionals at every level, make the system accountable and accessible to all – More than your legacy, the future of Belize depends on it!