Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Social Justice sought in Belize!


Belizeans are battered from all sides with arguments of fighting poverty, universal education and healthcare, housing and jobs. In this first decade of the 21 st Century, we are battered by countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua, who claim they have the solutions to finding the solutions to social justice. We also watch with interest the developments in the USA of the first elected LEFTIST President ever and whatever may come of it? In a so-called Western capitalist system that seems successful, but dysfunctional.

Human nature effects all individuals in one form or another. Emotions of ambition, status, greed, jealousy, envy, laziness and those who are unable to defend themselves, or compete because of disabilities. How to deal with these conflicting human drives and achieve utopian ideals of social justice has kept mankind busy for ten thousand years.

What lessons we have learned from history, is that; a one party state becomes a tyranny and cruel vicious dictatorship. The one party state always feeds on itself, like a rabid dog. That the one party state is created by ambitious power mad individuals, who though professing the intent and desire to create social justice, by cutting through the complications inherently found in multi-party governing systems, ends up being brutally worse than any system used before. On the other hand, the Capitalist system, multi-party system so called, can also have excesses of greed and abuses of power. These are usually much less than one party socialist systems.

There are undoubtedly many philosophical arguments about methods of achieving social justice throughout the countries and governing systems of the world. Needless to say, we in Belize are neither big enough to consider many of them, or rich enough. We can though, pull out of the myriad methods having been tried by other countries and systems, the nuggets of ideas that have proven to work.

Here are some of those ideas that have worked better than others, historically speaking. Centralization and the one party state concept, whether a socialist, monarchy, dictatorship, or communist, have failed; which leave us with the concept, that decentralization and local home rule, in a multi-party configuration gives the best results. NEVER satisfactory, but better than anything else so far achieved. More debating voices make for better decision making. Not always, but for the most part yes!

Concentration of power, or centralization, inevitably brings huge abuses and the masses of the population of all walks of life, will suffer. The only growth aspects in economics for centralized systems are the growth of the bureaucracy and creation of a class system defined by political party membership. A new ruling monarchy by a different name.

Excessive taxation can ruin a national economy. Taxation must be continuously fine tuned. Tweaked as it were. Taxation is probably the best method of achieving social justice if the taxes are so applied appropriately. The Scandinavian countries have done fairly well with socialization fed by taxation. The difference between Belize and Scandinavian countries are that they are manufacturing and huge oil producing countries and Belize is still only an agrarian society without any manufacturing capability. Manufacturing seems to pay better than agriculture for large populations. In Belize, the small population is doing well without manufacturing, but that situation will change over time.

Government should be from the bottom up, meaning from many small local government systems and not from the top down by a small political party elite of rulers. This we have learned from history, particularly over the last century. A party governing system should be for the most part simply managers of bottom up, desires. The faults here are often by bureaucratic regulation, laws and institutional rules that act as laws, created by an intellectual elite, either within a governing party, or advising a party, usually from urban centers. A salaried bureaucratic intellectual group, deciding what is best according to their myopic idealistic theoretical views, rather than the market place.

The majority of people work to a self interest type motivation. They need to see the fruits of their labor. Whether that be for PROFIT and what they perceive as a better materialistic life, or are just among the 2% of individuals driven by a strong work ethic and enjoy such a work motivated challenging life. The self interest may be as simple as the current debate between our southern rural Mayan agriculturalists simple rural life style and that of the more materialistic city dwellers of the port town, Belize City, the latter who desire more taxation on the small farmer, to support their chosen life styles of materialism.

Agriculture production from the viewpoint of economic and food self sufficiency is best achieved through the small farmer, the world historical statistical production evidence indicates. Corporate farms work, as has been proven in Canada, Australia and the USA. They do however lack many of the social justice inputs into the rural society found from small farmers, who may have different ambitions than desired by intellectual bureaucratic political party people whose goal may be more taxes, or easier tax collecting. The State farm systems of the communist centralized planning socialist countries, severely under perform the profit motive type production of small farmers, all statistics over the last century worldwide show. Ownership of land and the choice of selling the crop based on supply and demand prices, work wonders for production. Central planning by politicians and bureaucrats has proven historically to be disastrous to a national economy.

Belize has a pretty good multi-party system. It has flaws, such as; that with so few government jobs available, each winning party uses those jobs as rewards for party supporters. We should probably move to a double blind, system of civil service exams for each permanent government job, in which the examiner and judge does not know the identity of the applicants. This was discussed many years ago on the internet based BELIZE DEVELOPMENT ISSUES, but neither political party in Belize wish to give up the spoils, of awarding government jobs. This is certainly a fault in our governing system. Our governing efficiency and abilities are severely curtailed by pandering to political party greed. We pay for this political greed in poor economic performance on a national basis.

In the arguments for and against methods of social justice achievement, recent talks with Venezuela, hell bent on resurrecting ancient failed Soviet and Eastern Block methodologies using centralization, one party rule, and war against their middle class who base their activities on the incentive of profit; has shown Belizeans how we differ in methods. It is true, that GRANT AID, primarily from Taiwan, the FAO of the UN, some from the EU and a little bit from oil rich Venezuela seeking geo-political voting leverage in the International arena, has helped Belize achieve some social programs, we could not with our small population scattered all over this nation otherwise achieve. For those with financial plenty and a philosophy of giving, we are sincerely grateful. Politicians in most places in the world always spend more than is available. Ours are no different unfortunately and currently the ownership of the economy of Belize to foreign bankers is increasing under a new UDP government. Recent numbers show our debt ratio has moved from 76% of GDP to 95% of GDP. The goal of Belize should be of course to mimic the European Union and our debt ratio needs to be below 3% of GDP.

Trade, a thing that is still minimal for Belize with the outside world, has been shown to be rather impractical and unprofitable with both the CARICOM assorted island countries, despite preferential tariff encouragement and now with Venezuela. Venezuela, a large country with the money to pay for imports unlike our fellow CARICOM small market countries, has embarked on a pogrom of attacking and destroying their middle class like a repeat of the Eastern Bloc countries did back in the 1950’s. The ALBA trade deal does not seem practical for Belizean producers and exporters. Most of it is based on a government to government barter system and is primarily geared to achieving geo-political strength in the International forums through client small state votes that can be controlled by Venezuela. Belize needs export trade for CASH, to do any good from the social sense of improving our own society. The contribution that Venezuela is giving Belize has come mostly in the form of small GRANTS for specific social projects. Very much appreciated and creating good will. It is doubtful though, if either the bureaucrats, or the political party in power will agree to any type of barter type trade bloc and sign away Belizean International voting Independence in return for small favors. The HEARTLAND OF BELIZE have pretty much already abandoned both CARICOM and VENEZUELA as potential trading partners. There just is no money in it to pay the bills. Our attention now in Western Belize for would be export producers, is turning to Mexico, Central America and the FAR EAST, as possible export markets for new products in the agro processing field. We would dearly like to get into small manufacturing as well, as our population grows, if for no other reason than to provide jobs. The orientation of both our senior bureaucracy and the politicians seem to be aligned in the same direction, as the private sector here. Which is a massive change in thinking and policies.

One thing can be said for the current course. Living standards are rising rapidly in Western Belize along with labor saving devices; like washing machines, refrigerators, cars and trucks, inside plumbing, running water from a tap ( albeit cold ), etc. The days of fire heart wood cooking are nearly over. As are kerosene lamps and stoves. I would dearly like to buy an old kerosene oven that is portable and fit over a two burner butane hot plate type of cooking device. They are no longer sold either here, or in Guatemala unfortunately. A sign of rising material living standards. We must be doing something right?

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