The Shakron Sideshow: by Glenn Tillett (The Independent Newspaper Editorial 2/17/2012)


The revelation that PUP Lake Independence Standard Bearer Yolanda Shakron is Guatemalan born and holds both US and Belizean citizenship highlights once again the pressing need for immigration reform.

It is, of course, an irresistible target for the incumbent UDP who believe that they can score a tko in one constituency even before the polls open on election day, and that is their right. In our view all’s fair in love and politics.

For the PUP the issue is more than embarrassing in that the loss of two candidates in the same constituency just days before the poll may prove to be too big an obstacle to overcome. It will sure lengthen the odds in what most seem to think will be a close election. Surely there must be some feeling of being haunted by karma since the party was vocal in its opposition to the proposed amendment that would have removed this constitutional bar.

But there is no reason for the UDP to boast of their efforts in this matter. As a matter of principle they should not oppose Mrs. Shakron’s candidacy now that she has made a good faith effort to renounce her American citizenship, even if as a matter of political expediency the end of re-taking government justifies their means. The fact is if they were sincere in their position that dual nationals should serve in the National Assembly they would instead champion Mrs. Shakron’s candidacy.

There is also the odious matter of her “stolen passport” which is morally indefensible. When added to the spectacle of her brother campaigning for her political rival it adds up to Belizean politics at its most divisive.

Yes, we view this latest episode as the Shakron sideshow, but an important act in the larger political play. Once again perhaps the most divisive issue in Belize’s political, economic and social discourse, immigration, has been raised and is being personified in a candidacy.

Call it the Immigration Trifecta if you will – no other two countries matter to Belizeans more than the United States of America and Guatemala and in a single candidate we are forced to re-examine our relationship towards each, once again. Hopefully Mrs. Shakron’s candidacy will continue to spur us towards the type of dialogue, of discussion, of debate, which will result in the kind of immigration policy formulation, and/or reformulation, we can all live with, rather than it continuing to be a flashpoint for further divisiveness.

Pretty promises, pointless pledges

In the past two weeks Belizeans have heard from the Governor of the Central Bank and the Barrow administration’s economic advisor, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Executive Chairman of Beltraide and a senior officer in the United Democratic Party on the state of the Belizean economy. We welcome their contribution to the discussion on what we regard as the most pressing issue facing the nation – quo vadis the Belizean economy?

It is regrettable that their willingness to share their opinions and statistics is so belated and seemed spurred by their political expediency than any sense of duty to report to the Belizean nation.

The fact is that for the last three years Belizeans have witnessed record business and home foreclosures, record levels of unemployment, negative growth in local and foreign investment, remittances and tourism arrivals, increased fuel prices, taxation, violent crime, and poverty. We suppose that now they believe that they are the bearer of good news, and it is expedient that they have good news, that we, the struggling masses, will be receptive.

It is counter-productive in terms of moving our economy forward, that the answers to nearly all our questions continue to be blame the superbond, the corruption of the past administrations, and/or the world economy. The fact is that Belize would not have weathered the still on-going economic “storm” as well as it did if the previous administrations had not further diversified our economy to the extent that they did, and in fact continued the development of an economy that proved surprisingly resilient to the “exogenous” shocks of several hurricanes, agro-diseases and disruption, and a world economic “storm the likes of which had not been seen in a hundred years.”

The fact is that if this administration had heeded the warning in the quote above from the Japanese Prime Minister in April 2008, and had continued to reef our financial sails whilst securing the safety social net for our most disadvantaged, we would have “sailed” through in even greater fashion.

But enough with the rear-view driving: the question to be answered is who has the best plan for the next term of office? Do either party have as its goal Belize as a nation that will be a net exporter? Can either party promise that by 2016-17 we will be facing a future where our debt worries are a thing of the past? Will anyone declare full employment more than an illusion to be pursued but never attained?

We went from promises of a “chicken in every pot” to a roof above every head to now what, more pretty promises and pointless pledges? We want plans and projects, not promises; policies and programs, not pledges; proposals not propositions.