Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Scattered Tuesday morning thoughts about Belize

Scarlet Macaw a famous nearly extinct bird of Belize


This old man wakes up early and laying in my hammock before daylight comes, one has the chance to ponder different things. Being an old man and garrulous, here they are. I’m wondering how that road is, to Jalacte, Toledo and to Santa Cruz, Guatemala? My old maps do not show it and I’m wondering if a two wheel drive can get into Santa Cruz that way? We’d like to go back to the Rio Dulce in a few months. Swimming in a fresh water lake ( Lago Isabel ) was so nice, compared to swimming in salt water off Caye Caulker. The trip through Melchor on the border via Flores is about 5 or 6 hours. The two legs of the triangle in the Peten add a good few hours to the trip. If we could travel the Southern Highway and get to the Rio Dulce that way, it would save at least three hours of driving.
Saying that, if there is a new development idea that is worth pursuing for our government of Belize, priority wise for our government, it is completing the road to Guatemala that way. 18 wheeler freight trucks doing trade and commerce, between Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala with Belize would save a good three hours of driving if they could go this way. That is a lot of time and fuel. I would then put a weigh station on the Southern Highway and charge trucks for using the highway, in order to pay for the maintenance. That said, you could even make it a TOLL ROAD for private traffic too. Is there any kind of boat traffic to Livingston from Punta Gorda I wonder these days? A mini van collectivo I know runs from Livingston up to Rio Dulce. It only takes a little longer to get to the Rio Dulce than it does to get to Caye Caulker, from here in Santa Elena Town. Anybody driven to Santa Cruz on the Guatemalan side?
I read in the weekend newspapers that the BDF hijacked some local villager, from Jalacte, of 5 cases of Gallo beer and five cases of soft drinks. What a stupid thing to do? When the government is ready to put in an immigration and customs post on the frontier here, THEN you charge duty. In the meantime, let local border villages get their supplies from across the frontier, rather than the very long trip to Punta Gorda town. It seemed the local area representative used common sense, but the event was distorted in the weekend newspapers out of all proportion and practicalities. Local villagers have to shop where it is convenient. One has to doubt that putting in a customs officer here would pay his salary on those cases the BDF hijacked. The area representative showed common sense by chastising the BDF. The port town BLACK controlled newspapers, blew the thing way up, into some sort of criminal activity. What a bunch of nonsense.
It does seem that during the remaining years of the UDP this term, they could almost reach the goal of putting the nation of Belize on a self sustainable footing for development WITHOUT foreign loan borrowing for the future. The potential seems there, during their last two years of this five year term. One could presume that if they took much of the infra-structure projects planned for this year and spread them over NEXT year as well, the mid term year, that might ease any pain in the economy for what seems to be a difficult year in 2010-11. That said, with careful management, one could see the last two years of the UDP term ALMOST reaching the goal of financial self sufficiency. With a little bit of help from LADY LUCK, the UDP would then get a second term and continuing strict financial management and the normal growth in the economy, around 10%, that would put the country over the hump so to speak. We are teetering on the edge of SELF SUFFICIENCY financially, as a nation right now. It all depends on the political management. This current budget just presented, has so many possibilities and gives HOPE. That finally somebody is trying to do the right thing by Belize. It is possible even by the 2012 last year for this UDP term, that we may have passed the threshold of financial self sustainability as a nation. It all depends on good management by the politicians. If we hadn’t had that trickle down economics three years national debt by Musa/Fonseca and the PUP, we would be there already. I really look forward to seeing some legislation, ruling how we spend money in this country. Setting limits on incoming politicians. Even with the $100 million a year of interest on Fonseca’s/Musa Super Bond, we could and should be able to absorb that in the following 5 year term, if it was the UDP re-elected based on sound fiscal management principals, instead of all this off the cuff, emotional, knee jerk reaction stuff, we have experienced since Independence.
We had expected by rule of thumb, that government total revenue would be $760 million, but the new budget projections are for $717 million. A good $40 million less than expectations. I personally feel as a gut reasoning projection, that the economy in it’s current down phase cycle, will start up again during 2011. This means if we can cut government costs down to more tighter austere conservative projections for this year and next year, we should come out of any economic difficulties, smelling like roses for 2011 and 2012, the last two years of the UDP term. Barrow has been quoted as hoping for an oil price surge, to increase government oil revenues. That is a double edged sword, as that would also increase inflation and cost of living. His current estimates are based on an average $50 a barrel. Probably fair enough as a guess, but I would have based projections on $40 a barrel for oil. I like to underestimate incomes, not overestimate them. Building in a safety factor and surplus surprise cash flow, if you get it. Barrow as Finance Minister is going to have to fight for nickels and dimes over the next two years if his party is going to be successful. I’ve just about wrung out the numbers on the budget. He is saying they took their time, got consultations and technical expertise and the figures confirm what he says. That is gratifying. To make it work during his term in office, he is going to have to keep the screw on austerity though. He will have to get good value for the dollar spent. He also needs more GRANT aided projects, not loans. They’ve done well in the GRANT field anyway this past year, and congratulations are probably in order, but we need to increase the GRANT aided projects for the next two years at a minimum. This is just my personal opinion of course. Politicians have other criteria to ponder.
The battle between the Robber Barons and the PUC controls goes on. We have been getting a lot of electric outages the past few days. My electricity bill, I finally got it down from $138 a month last month, to $103 a month yesterday. I fail to understand why I am paying more for electricity? My bill used to be $78 per month and nothing has changed. Indeed, we go around turning off lights and have eliminated the burglar light in the back yard. Still my electricity bill keeps climbing. I just do not understand it?
I wish the PUC would nationalize the building and fiber optic entry into Belize and make it easier for competitive telecommunications to flower in our country. How many years has it been that BTL in one form or another has been promising us good cell phone service and internet service and we still cannot get either in Santa Elena Town. At least a decade and a half of bull manure propaganda.
The local San Ignacio internet café we use has dropped his monthly fee from $100 to $50, as new competition in Santa Elena Town is effecting the downtown internet café business. The new Santa Elena Town cafe this past week were offering a month for $55. I had to laugh at that. The wonders of competition! I offered our regular internet café we use, $40 a month each and would pay for the three of us in advance. He hemmed and hawed about that and is going to sleep on it. The only way we can cut our internet costs is to shorten our time in the internet café. We pay by the hour.
I don’t understand the visitor statistics on this blog newsletter. One version gives us about 1,210,000 hits since inception 6 months ago. I can’t believe those numbers and haven’t really been able to install a COUNTER on this blog. I think I can stick advertising logos on the left hand side of my page. I may have to sell some monthly adds between $50 to $100 each depending on size. Haven’t got that far yet. We were trying to model after the San Pedro Daily as a format. Really haven’t been able to get a setup, or pre-planned format pattern I can use, that is off the shelf for it though. Notice that the Rocky Mountain Newspaper has gone bankrupt with a whole bunch of USA newspapers. Even the Miami Herald is up for sale. Printed newspapers are going out of style in the USA. Dozens of big city newspapers are going bankrupt. The media world is changing.
Have a married couple coming down next month to research Belize with the intent of moving out of the USA to Belize. They want to rent for two weeks to a month while they look around. The USA is managed worse than Belize it looks like? If the UDP manage to convert our nation, to one of self sufficiency financially, Belize is going to have to become more restrictive on who they let migrate here.
On the local political scene, the Belmopan town council elections show the VIP coming into position to jockey for replacement of the PUP into the OPPOSITION party. I didn’t get to read what the program was for the Belmopan election for the UDP who actually won that Town Board election, but I did read in the newspapers someplace, the VIP program for Belmopan and thought it was an impressive platform. They showed well in the election. If they can morph into a National Party, they would be a credible opposition. I think the Toledo PNP should merge with the VIP and became one of them for the next National Elections. The VIP would then become the replacement of the PUP. Which the PUP would then become an independent minority third party spoiler in the elections.
The PUP actually has cost the nation of Belize about a lost fifteen years of development. This may turn out to be twenty years in the end, lost from where we as a country could be development wise. It was that darned Fonseca / Musa trickle down BORROWING program that did it, accompanied by the FREE FOR ALL outright blatent theft, corruption, sweetheart deals and scandals. If the VIP can replace the PUP at the National Elections level, or compete with them, the VIP should sometime during the next four years, should there be a bunch of graft, theft and corruption scandals within the UDP now in power, they stand a good chance as the VIP, of becoming the next government nationally on the rebound effect. Even if they only got some Opposition seats, the VIP would be in good position to capitalize on that, the following national election. Should the UDP have financial scandals then the VIP would be a default party to elect, if they could get their national aspirations and party machinery in order. It remains to be seen how the UDP perform the balance of this term and whether the VIP can organize their party on a national level. They need to absorb the other competition.


bret said...

Just curious as to how long youve been in Belize? My wife and I were there last about ten years ago and are searching for a couple who ran a hotel in San Ignacio. Cant remember the hotel or their names and thought you may help.


Western Belize Happenings! said...

We run Falconview Backpackers Hostel, but it has only been open three years. I myself have lived here since Colonial Days. Mostly on Caye Caulker, but retired to his foothill mountainous area for the better climate. No bugs and cooler at nights.