Friday, December 12, 2008


Growing up in the Belizean society, whether in the peaceful decade of the 60s or the technologically dependent one that is the post-millennium, the mere mention of the word "Guatemala" may evoke explicit sentiments. However, this is not because we have suffered from a severe case of xenophobia, but rather, it is because it spurs a sense of nationalism due to their century-old claim over our territory. This, I believe, is understandable. What I cannot understand is the sudden opposition against settling this claim in a controlled, objective legal setting. My confusion is compounded by the fact that just last year we had independent Guatemalan communities living in our territory; this event of course incited massive outrage and eventually compelled our government to take action. We are at a critical juncture where this territorial claim can be once and for all, solved. Now I admit, that victory at the ICJ does not mean exactly that. Guatemala can just as easily refuse to acknowledge defeat. However, at last, we would be able to wave a document to the world - a world that recognizes the legitimacy of the ICJ - and say that we have done our part to settle this dispute, regardless of whether Guatemala recognizes it or not. At the end of the day, only they will look foolish.

The other tangent of opposition rests on our probablity to lose the case. This of course is not impossible. Would it mean that we would have to relinquish our sovereignty to the quetzal? I doubt it. I think it is our duty to support our diplomats in their effort to finally solve our territorial qundary. Stoning eggs and accusations of betrayal are unwarranted, unjustified and displays Belize at its worst. I was appalled when Paul Morgan - leader of the VIP party - said that he opposes it because the government failed to educate the people about the various processes. As he should know, the real educational initiative is launched after the signing of the compromis, after which, the people will have their say through a referendum. But it is irresponsible to beleaguer this effort before the education process has even begun.

I attended a conference last week where an American from Charlotte, North Carolina discussed his intention to invest in real estate in Belize. He said, "I am in love with Belize. I go there every year with my family. The people there are peaceful, they speak English, and they have no history of overthrowing the government. The only negative issue affecting the country is its dispute with Guatemala." He announced this to a pool of nodding investors, who travelled from all parts of the world. Clearly, these investors were well aware of our dispute. Now, tell me, would there be any hesitation in their minds about a "dispute" if we secured a victory from the ICJ? I think not.

The Business Tax: The Best of Bad Policy

Yesterday's meeting of the House entailed discussion about, what I believe to be, two of the most salient issues on the present Belizean agenda. First, with regard to the 5% business tax increase for telecommunication entities, I believe that our government has succumbed to a similar form of bigotry - one that is similar in taste, but distinct in its motivation - that consumed the previous administration.

The government, from what I have tried to garner, has not provided a single legitimate reason for specifically targeting the telecommunications industry. It consistently references the need to increase its revenues, and as a result, decided to go after the most profitable company, not industry, to achieve this increase. This is the best example of bad policy. There have been rumors that the government's motivation rested on the fact that Ashcroft has discontinued his payments on Intelco. A second rumor states that the government's intention to frustrate Ashcroft to the point whereby he increases rates and issues layoffs, thus paving the way for a third competitor to enter the market. Rumors, of course, are simply rumors. Nonetheless, when Hon. Mark Espat asked the Prime Minister whether he could assure the Belizean people that rate increases and/or job losses would not result, our Prime Minister simply evaded these pivotal concerns - concerns that should be taken into serious consideration when deciding to increase tax rates.

To conclude, the telecommunications industry has done wonders for ability to communicate: we enjoy the benefits of two fierce competitors, both offering low rates and innovative ideas. There are SMS bundles, Digicell Messenger, Gimme Dalla and the list goes on. But the list can only go on if these companies are allowed the resources to innovate. Putting pressure on their investment capacity is ultimately disadvantageous to the consumer, not to Lord Ashcroft.

(Seeing as this topic was fairly lengthy, I will discuss my opinion on the ICJ in the subsequent blog entry.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Up a creek without a plan

Well first Citco decided on some ill-conceived roundabouts at either end of St. Thomas St. Apparently the mayor had a New Zealand dream or something...

Now, to try to correct the problem, they have put some ill conceived speed bumps (a.k.a. sleeping policemen) at the roundabout approaches. Did the mayor have another dream, or was it an acid trip this time?

All I can say is WHAT THE H. E. Double Hockey Sticks!

Where is the city planner? Are they educated enough to even get professional opinion on these things. This all goes back to the fact that we have no planning in this city. We do everything last minute, knee jerk and without a hint (much less a vision) of the future.

Another example...the NEW Lee Chee. Yes all you cholesterol freaks, Lee Chee is moving up the street to its new location right beside Taste(less) Patties. And before this blog turns into an ad for Lee Chee, lets get to the real issue. Why has a restaurant of this nature been allowed to build right up onto the sidewalk? Where are the pedestrians going to stand? On the Street?

There should be a Planning Approval Board to oversee this stuff. To make sure commercial businesses are properly built to fire code, traffic code and all the other codes that we should, but don't, have.  There should be no fiberglass boat factories in neighborhoods, no unsafe radio towers in Ladyville, no signs hanging over sidewalks, and no food vendors scattered at every vacant lot.

There should be rules and regulations with stiff penalties for those that disobey.

Again, I feel like I say this every week. Why are we settling for lower standards? 

Here's an idea. Replace them all...the councillors, the mayor, and Central Gov't ...with people who know what they are doing, not some midnight dreamers.