Saturday, January 24, 2009

BELIZE POLITICS AND LOAN BORROWING BUDGET

Photo of Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow.


BARROW’S MEDIA INTERCHANGE

I got a chance to see more of PM Barrow’s media conference at Radisson Hotel in the port town, down on the coast, on noon time television Friday. Too bad it wasn’t held in the CAPITAL, BELMOPAN of BELIZE, but then the coastal port town political system controls the nation of BELIZE, so the UDP don’t act like they believe in our nation as a sovereignty, but more like some kind of port town personal fiefdom.
There was a sort of fat guy sitting under some TV cameras asking most of the questions and he seemed to be well prepared. Unless he was a patsy submitting agreed political questions, appearing to lead the Prime Minister where he wanted to go? Up to now our Prime Minister has been practicing a lot of delegating authority to his Cabinet Ministers. So both as a Prime Minister and as a Party Leader he has given the rural public around the six districts of Belize, the impression that he is disconnected from nation building, and has not taken on the role of a dynamic strong hand at the helm, type of Prime Minister. This was his media conference, so one has to suppose he got a chance to prep himself for any public questions? At any rate, he acquitted himself fairly well, with an apparent grasp of any issues being discussed on our bz-culture listserve membership debating forum. I find his manner of speaking kind of disconcerting. He speaks so haltingly, hesitant and you can basically see the smoke coming out of his ears, as the wheels of the cogs in his brain are running through various answers to questions from the public, before he opens his mouth. He definitely is not spontaneous. I prefer ELRINGTON who will give you an answer rapidly, and even if it is right or wrong, it doesn’t really matter. The guy is rapid and efficient. Barrow’s verbal pauses are pregnant with apparent legal considerations rotating through the machinery of his brain. You can literally smell the brain oil burning in the gears. The results are well thought out and explained to the public though.
BARROW presented the JALACTE incident with the trespass of one Guatemalan squatter very well and explained how the government was not acting in undue haste. I can appreciate that sort of diplomacy, as it is sort of foreign to my own nature as a past ships captain, when you are not only responsible for the vessel, cargo and crew, or passengers, that you have already run through your mind the emergencies, disasters that can happen and have at hand an immediate rapid series of alternative responses in your brain, for all possible alternatives. In the time, when BARROW is thinking, and his ears are throwing out smoke, you could run a ship right on the reef. In the JALACTE container/house incident I’d have been much more rambunctious, but appreciate his more leisurely and contained approach to this incident. Not my way, but probably a better way to do it, the way the UDP government are doing it. I’d have just given the guy two weeks to move it, or gone in there and towed it away to Jalacte and impounded it. Probably my approach would have been the wrong approach and Barrow’s way is better? The video showed very pretty country down there? Must drive down and camp out and check it out sometime?
I felt on the ICJ Guatemalan Claim issue, he was saving face, sort of backing down. Which is okay and he did say that the Guatemalan President does not have a majority in Congress and probably unlikely to even get agreement to go to a REFERENDUM within the time limits. If they did call a referendum, we in Belize could vote NO! I got the sense that the UDP Cabinet were a majority for a NO REFERENDUM vote, but only BARROW and ELRINGTON, the two lawyers in the political party who are trained skilled dominant debaters, got so confused in the forest at watching the individual trees; they got lost and couldn’t visualize the big picture of the forest, so they were personally convinced at the time, in the nitty gritty, historical legal aspects, rather than the larger moral and ethical aspects, when they accepted the CLAIM argument query from Guatemala. Their legal training probably overwhelmed a CABINET of elected amateurs. It is my belief the way BARROW was wishy washy on the issue and his explanation, that there is now a change of heart in the CABINET. BARROW did go on in various “if , maybes, and buts” to leave one wondering. Sounded like an addictive gambler buying stock in the market just to keep the action going, when he should be in CASH and HOLDING pat. Lots of people gone broke basing decisions on HOPE and LADY LUCK!
Whether BARROW has a finger on the pulse of the nation and the nitty gritty details during the month, or weeks, as he appeared to have in this conference is still in doubt. Certainly he gave the public confidence in his leadership, the way he answered questions from the media at THIS conference. Considering the paucity of media conferences, it does leave one still wondering though, what is the story behind his leadership? Is he in command all the time, or only when he pre-plans a media conference and gets prepped? I’m convinced that for the most part, the seeming delegation of ministerial responsibilities by the Prime Minister is practicing, that all decisions can in the end, be attributed to the UDP CABINET as a whole by majority vote. Which means my area representative Rene Montero has to answer here in Cayo Central for how he votes on Cabinet decisions, if we can find that out?
My wife asked me about the economy and I told her BARROW didn’t really touch on that. There were so many excuses in the speech, using the lack of money for different things, I was left with the impression that the UDP has not planned out their budget last year very well. In fact, I know so! That said, the impression I have, is that BARROW is basing the BORROW and SPEND Keynesian historically failed philosophy he is claiming, is another sort of addictive gamblers choice. Based solely on HOPE ( wishful thinking ) and not on pragmatic dollars and cents. According to the Godfrey Smith article recently analyzing past Belize Prime Ministers, UDP Esquivel was a better Prime Minister than BARROW here is currently, on economical spending by the UDP. If Esquivel is being paid as an advisor by BARROW, then the PM is not listening. When you gamble you must know how to cut your losses, or hold your hand pat. The UDP under BARROW has failed to do those professional things. I’m not sure what the gamble is in this case with the economy and finances? It just seems a loser to me. With $750 million annual revenues, about $250 million of this revenue earmarked for the bond debt interest payments and a government costing $550 million or more. Coupled with a raise in that amount earmarked for the BOND interest payments by 50% soon, and another year after that or so, the BOND interest payments doubles again. When you look at that as a stock market bet, it is one you must turn away from and hold tight. The government revenues only will increase about $70 million for 2008 and probably increase by $83 million extra revenues in 2009 if tourism recovers. The JOKER in the hole is the possibility that more oil fields will be found and start producing, thus rescuing the UDP and all Belizeans from bankruptcy and those bad effects.
The borrowing of $200 million while going somewhat, for needed productive capacity infra-structure, can only be paid for from more borrowed money, unless something fortunate happens. A sort of gamblers choice to let LADY LUCK enter the equation. ( $200 million means it will cost us $500 million over a long term to be paid back ) I’m supposing he must know something about the possibility of increased oil wells and oil exports, rescuing the UDP fiscal management team, that we the public don’t know? That would be nice, but to gamble on LADY LUCK backed by HOPE, isn’t a professional gamblers way of doing things, or handling government loans via credit. Borrowing new credit cards to pay off old credit cards is not a proper financial policy coming out of the UDP Cabinet.
BARROW came out as a fairly good spokesperson leader in this media conference. Some of the things he said, reflected an attitude that was impressive for ethics. The UDP Cabinet solution to the GEGG / Niche contract argument was fair to the business community and restores confidence in the impartiality of government institutions. I’d be more able to judge the situation, if BARROW was having media conferences twice a month though, when you watched him handle surprise questions. Too many ambiguities here, with possible political party manipulation of the situation down in that port town. From the UDP point of view, I would say the media meeting of BARROW with the press was a success.
The thing is; the UDP Cabinet seem to be digging the hole to the Republic of China deeper, trying to go through the center of the Earth and get to their money that way? That hole is going to collapse on the people of Belize, is my own thinking. The way to get out of the financial borrowing hole is to stop digging.
During the PUP term, before last when they did the same BORROW and SPEND type trickle down economics, the PUP sold out the government revenues for my adult generation, my children’s generation ( they are in their productive 40’s ), my grandchildren’s generation, who are only now finishing up their higher education to go into the business place and my great grandchildren’s generation, government tax revenues are forced to go to pay interest on national debts. What the UDP are now doing seems to be a repeat of the PUP, except that the UDP are borrowing and spending the government revenues for my great, great, grandchildrens generation and great, great, great grandchildrens generation and so on. The government tax revenues on average increase about 10% a year through population growth. That means there are cycles within this average to achieve average government revenue growth, and it looks like we are on a down cycle for the next three or four years, unless oil finds increase, and oil exports take up the slack. This means on this down cycle, government revenues are increasing at a slower rate, perhaps 6% instead of 10% and not even estimating any future economic contraction when the debts become too high to maintain out of government tax revenues, and the UDP borrowing will not be met, causing a financial debacle either for this UDP final years, or whoever has the five year term after this. The debt payments are gobbling up more of our available annual tax revenues faster than we can expand our economy and revenues. Which sooner or later means bankruptcy.
The UDP BORROWING policy has serious minded fiscal people very worried. If Godfrey Smith’s recent article on the management characteristics of past UDP, PM Esquivel are true, I cannot imagine UDP financial advisor Esquivel would be going along with this UDP CABINET financial policies? It is certain BARROW is not paying Esquivel any mind, for the tax money we are paying him as an advisor to BARROW.
My own opinion on all this first year of the UDP, is that the UDP CABINET is GAMBLING with our Belizean Future tax revenues and simply not practicing proper fiscal planning and management principles that guarantee success. Unless a lucky oil find occurs, we are looking at bankruptcy again.

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