Sunday, March 15, 2009


Caricom Secretariat in San Ignacio, Western Belize, Cayo District.

"home of the productive sector of Belize"

This was not advertised very well, but after hearing about it on Cable TV, Channel 7, I was able by driving around and persistence, to find out on Saturday, that the TOWN HALL MEETING was to be held at 4 p.m. at Sacred Heart College in San Ignacio.
The impression given by television news, was that it would be attended by the CARIBBEAN HEADS OF GOVERNMENT. This turned out not to be so, and was in actual fact, some duty bound executives of the CARICOM secretariat bureaucracy. A panel of promoters from the Executive of CARICOM basically. This was disappointing, as at a secondary level, such managers do not have the power to do anything, or achieve any progress of themselves. Listening and talking to the soldiers in the trenches is very interesting, but if you want to get things found out, or accomplished, you really need to communicate with the CHIEFS, the real movers and shakers.
Despite this drawback, we did find out from my four questions, that there were no Investment Bankers located in the CARICOM nations. We were looking for an equity shareholder partner for a stake in a proposed Regional inter-Caricom airline service, on a small pioneer, bootstrap scale, to build eventually into something bigger, by serving as the transportation unifying factor for the growth of the much ballyhooed Caribbean Common Market alleged opportunities. This fell flat. Theoretically speaking, it should be possible to issue $25 million USD of Class B preferred shares to some sort of amalgamation of participation, by CARICOM member states through a Caribbean institution, but as we suspected, the building of the ONE Caribbean nation composed of smaller states, has not got that far yet, emotionally, or pragmatically. From the news we received here on the outer Western Rim of CARICOM, in Belize, from this blue ribbon Caricom Secretariat executive panel, it was obvious that even though individual nationalistic fervor predominates in the existing Caribbean airlines operating and supported from losing national subsidies, are still sort of operating in the Central and Eastern Caribbean, are not in regional unity as a nation state composed of smaller states, but as feudal competing kingdoms, for some sort of vague glory of individualistic national one upmanship. Bureaucratic and political controlled airlines will never satisfy the goal of regional airline service. They will always fail. A regional inter-airline service has to be successful as a pioneer airline, run by a competitive private sector company, based on fly for profit principals and service, growing from creation of market demand over TIME. At that point of the Caricom Secretariat meeting, we basically gave up on CARICOM, for without some sort of internal flying transportation service there is no way from Belize, that the time and effort in trying to serve the potentials of alleged CARICOM unity and duty free status for internal trade, can compete against that of elsewhere outside of the Caricom regional market idea. At least on the small scale of private industry efforts, currently common, throughout the scattered nation states that now exist. This same issue was one of the major causes of foundering of the original West Indies Federation and it looks to repeat itself, at least in the form of trade and economics.
The Caricom Secretariat gave their usual spiel on the potentials of trade and such rhetoric, but when questions from the student audience started asking nitty gritty questions about the actual assistance being offered, were met with the usual bureaucratese vague responses, that back pedaled rapidly to explanations of ; “well we ourselves can’t do anything, it is up to you the private sector to take the risks“. All that was missing was the cheerleader section and the marching band with trumpets, drums and cymbals. Western Belizeans in this new generation of students seemed to understand they were being fed hoopla and the best thing was to keep your hand on your wallet, lest this new growing Federal style civil service entity, being promoted by our current UDP government, starts the predatory practice of taxation for this new federated nation state, to support academics in their salaried bureaucratic jobs.
There were some other interesting bits and pieces of information. Some of the Eastern Caribbean countries have the foreign exchange capability and fixed rates of exchange, to enable a person from Belize to do business and get paid promptly in foreign exchange, so this Caricom executive alleged. It has been more than twenty years since we had a failed experiment in exporting fish and lobster from our Caye Caulker Cooperative to the big market in Jamaica, when the difficulties in getting paid in cold cash as in foreign exchange, caused the venture to collapse. The memory lingers on.
The Caricom head executive responsible for the trade and commerce of the Secretariat corrected my outdated 18 month old statistics on exports from Belize to CARICOM with statistics in turn, for more recent events of exports from Belize, of Red Kidney Beans and Citrus products. These he said had grown substantially. I wouldn’t know, as we have not been able to get current statistics for over a year out of our own Belize Statistics Unit under our new government. Similarly, I complained to the panel, that e-mails to statistical units in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad also do not answer public private sector statistical queries either. Without current statistical access I have no idea how CARICOM market opportunities can be found or made? This not counting the lack of affordable direct access by airplane, by an internal regional airline, to allow a private sector entrepreneur to go and meet with suppliers, or buyers in some venture. It was to overcome this problem, that we first decided to attempt to build a CARICOM AIRLINE, about nine months ago. We also in the AUXILLOU TOURIST GROUP also see the potential in CARICOM and have identified internal airline service as the first priority necessary , which is why we are interested so far. In the first building block of economic integration for CARICOM it is our collective wisdom that this is priority number one. So far our endeavors are without success. We have the availability of a plane, but the three to five year expected losing costs of a bootstrap operation are more than we would wish to handle. We want to build this pioneer airline with equity partners in stock holdings, not by loans. We do it on our terms, or not at all. The idea of being undercapitalized is nonsense for such a bootstrap operation pioneering endeavor. The story and photographs are on:
As an answer and information format the town hall meeting was okay. Since most of the attendees were students from the High School and some from Galen University and three students who had traveled to Trinidad somehow to study the workings of the CSME ( something to do with CARICOM Trade- ) I didn’t remember the meaning of all the bureaucratic acronyms. The enquiries got hot and more interesting as the audience livened up, but BEL cut the electricity and we were in the growing darkness without lights or microphone, so somebody ended the growing lively debate.
There were some good speakers among the High School students surprisingly, and one young man really stood out. Apparently he had been to Trinidad and he tried to make the point as an entrepreneur student hopeful, he could do better and make better and faster money by trading with Guatemala, Mexico or Salvador, than with Caricom, based on distance and costs. He did not quite have his arguments articulated and was more expressing his gut feelings, with which most of us Western Belize entrepreneurs agree. Dr. Carrington countered with an argument that you follow the profit, or the money, wherever your source is from, and market is going toward profit, not composed of regional distances like the long distances in CARICOM. A debate of itself that could have become more complex if allowed, but lack of electricity, light and so forth cut the evening short.
My impressions? This was a bunch of bureaucrats fulfilling some sort of quota grade they have to show on a monthly, quarterly, or annual achievement report, to justify their existence and jobs. So many numbers of visits to Caricom countries and conferences, or town hall meetings disseminating information of CARICOM functions and so forth, to fill in the little boxes for justification purposes, when reporting to higher ups. They did not seem to have any power, or functional purpose, everything depended on the different HEADS of GOVERNMENT was my impression. The actual work was to be performed by RISK TAKING CAPITAL from the private sector.
One of the most interesting remarks was made by Dr. Carrington, who explained that BELIZE only joined CARICOM in the early 1980’s to get unified voting support and lobbying assistance at the United Nations for Belizean Independence. This in fact worked out well for Belize. Left unsaid hanging in the empty air was the silence, of all those missing eighteen years between THEN and NOW. Our current Prime Minister, Dean Barrow remembers this very well and currently he is plugging our joining CARICOM with boots, saddle, bridle and horse. Even though there is currently minimal trade to speak of and no airline direct communication to open trade and economic partnerships and business. The private sector in Western Belize is more questioning and pragmatic about the whole thing. Is this thing actually going to go anywhere is the root question? In some areas maybe, like legal affairs and foreign policy? In trade and commerce probably only in a minor way. There seems not to be the political Will or the Financial capability to bootstrap the situation for the next decade at any rate?

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