Monday, June 21, 2010

Crime and unemployment could result in changes in government in Belize and the Caribbean

By Wellington C. Ramos:

I have always listened to many world leaders speaking about what they would like to accomplish for the citizens of their respective countries during their tenures in office and have very seldom heard any of them committing themselves to provide full time employment to all their citizens.

Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and HistoryYet, if the citizens of a country are unemployed they will not be in the position to provide for themselves and their families, which will leave the burden on the government. A caring government should always make full employment its top priority. Any government that does not have this issue on the top of there list is embarking on an impossible journey.

Maybe, if the government of Belize had this issue at the top of their agenda when they first came into office, crime would not be escalating in Belize at the rate it is today. I have looked at several studies over the years and it is documented that there is a direct relationship between crime and employment. When a government has failed to provide meaningful employment to its citizens, a majority of the criminals will use that reason as a justification to commit crimes.

Knowing my Belizean people, a majority of them will say but how come when we were growing up we grew up hard and did not have to commit crimes. Well, we grew up in different times and this new generation is a lot different from the people who grew up during our time.

A majority of these young people are exposed to different things that we were not exposed to when we were growing up and the things that they are currently exposed to are what shape their thoughts and influence their actions. Some of the things as parents and guardians we have control of but a majority of them we lack control over.

The common cry in Belize is that this young generation is lazy and they do not want to do anything but beg, sell drugs and steal. There might be some truth to this but time and things have changed in our country, in all the other countries in the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

It is not the responsibility of the private sector to provide full employment to the citizens of a country. That burden lies on the government through a long term plan that gives incentives to private businesses to invest their funds in the economy where they can make profits for themselves and expand their businesses.

A person that has money to invest will not spend his or her money until they have evaluated a government’s incentive package. If they come to the conclusion that there is nothing there for them, then they will just sit on the side and hold on to their money until the government comes out with a package that is favorable to them.

Most businesses are attracted to tax incentives, inducements and business loans. In Belize, there were several of these given to political parties cronies who were not legitimate business people over the years and the taxpayers’ money went to waste, causing DFC to go bankrupt. Some of these individuals still owe the Belizean taxpayers and they are not being pursued for the outstanding debts.

That same money could have been given to a legitimate business owner who would have provided jobs to many citizens. Giving businesses reasonable tax incentives for hiring people is a wise thing to do. The incentive should be measured and monitored because it will take away from the government’s revenue.

The government of Belize came out with a comprehensive plan to combat crime and it was impressive. If this is backed up by a similar plan to deal with unemployment, land reform and lot acquisition, it will be difficult for them to lose re-election.

Belizeans are tired of seeing foreigners come into their country to be given lots and lands, while they are asked to fill out applications wait for years and never hear back anything from the Lands Department. Plus, when they go to Belmopan there is no record that they ever applied for any lot or land while watching the foreigners living in their new homes and forcefully taking lands to do their farming.

There is enough land in Belize to give every Belizean citizen living in Belize, the United States and abroad a lot and farm land so that they can own a part of their country and be proud citizens, so what is causing this big delay?

The Ministers of Trade, Industry, Labour, Agriculture, Commerce and Foreign Investment must now get together and formulate a comprehensive package to tackle unemployment in Belize. I have not seen any statistics on what is Belize’s unemployment rate but my guess is that it is over 25%. When they brought out the poverty rate recently, it was alarming and this is because of the unemployment situation, which has a major impact on most or the citizens’ social and economic conditions.

If the government of Belize can get a commitment to establish about three large industrial factories in each district and offer lots and farm lands to a majority of the unemployed residents of Belize City to build a home and do farming elsewhere, the country of Belize would become a more prosperous nation.

Belize City is too old and is suffering from serious urban decay and decline. I used to live in Belize City many years ago and it is a different city today. To live in a city just to say you live in a city, where you feel unsafe and insecure is not worth it. In real estate, a person who has a home is always looking for a peaceful, quiet and enjoyable environment to live.

I still believe that our country of Belize can be a better place than what it is today but, for that to happen, we need to get the Belizeans who are nationalistic, committed, qualified and possess the human resources to be at the helm of our future developmental planning to make it happen. Most of Belize’s resources live in the United States and the sooner they tap them, the faster they will have their problems resolved.

Before America became a powerful nation in the world, the founding fathers sat down and planned out America’s path to world dominance. Who are going to be the Belizeans in the group to sit down and plan out Belize’s path?

June 21, 2010