Tuesday, June 30, 2009



The Reporter newspaper of Sunday, June, 28th, 2009 has a comprehensive article explaining the new Building Act and the new Building Authority established in the port town of Belize City, with powers to be centralized and control all construction in the future around the many districts of rural Belize.
The Building Act itself was an idea of the previous PUP Administration and being implemented by the current UDP Administration.
The Building Act and the implementation as explained down in the port of Belize City administration offices of the new bureaucracy, seems as explained in the workshop for contractors and engineers, to be an import from the more industrialized, heavily populated, congested metropolitan areas of the United States of America.
There are always problems when Belize intellectuals try to import a system of government bureaucracy from some other part of the world and many mistakes have been made over the last forty five years in Belize by doing so. The local conditions and environment are not at all similar to other countries, and from the article on the workshop by the Building Authority, it would seem a repeat of old errors. Usually such mistakes are made by a port town elite, with experience of living in more than one country and the ideas and desires to bring in industrialized modes of other places, to make the government more income revenue, from various taxes, licenses and fees. In this case there is the use of the usual language of regulation, better construction standards and the usual hoopla of justifications; which in the environment of Belize and importation limitations for a country that does not manufacture or produce the materials required in construction, make the usual platitudes and rhetoric seem ridiculous. The Building Act is all about REVENUE and taxation of one sort or another.
Thinking the whole idea nonsense myself, and that I might be prejudiced, I resorted to doing a poll of opinion around our Western Belize area and found the consensus to be unanimous. It is not that these type of regulations and way of doing things do not work somewhat, in industrialized and heavily populated countries of the FIRST WORLD, but the attempt to apply them in a country like Belize with a very small population, most of which are scattered in remote communities and hamlets around the rural areas covering over 6000 square miles, make the whole idea presposterous.
Despite the rhetoric and justifications it is obvious the idea of the Building Act in the present USA form is not about improving building construction, but about other goals. Mainly to find ways to find revenue for a cash strapped government. This is hardly reason and logical to saddle the populace a system that does not fit what Belize is.
Most of the population of Belize, live in the rural areas of the country of Belize. Overall the population is very small, about 300,000, of which 85% are reputed to be youngsters, or children. Of this population, 70% do not get any more education than Standard 4, elementary, or primary school ( grade 6 by USA standards of education ). Incomes are usually in the range of $125 Bz per week, per family for those with some sort of salaried jobs. At least 84% of the population have no steady cash flow at all. They live off catch and kill day work occasionally, and by growing their own food, and hunting, or performing small tasks for others, in cottage industry style. Even in the district towns, the middle class workers, usually working for the government in most cases, like teachers and policemen, get a middle class salary which runs about $1200 Bz per month. A higher income flow than the majority of people. I can look out of my verandah on an evening and indeed did so yesterday and count the number of smoke trails, billowing up from the backyard trees in my town suburb of Santa Elena Town. There are about a hundred houses in this suburb of Santa Elena Town in a Development Finance project which was started by the UDP government the last time they were in office 15 years ago and never actually finished off. The septics for the houses are not septics, but soakaways, they have no drain field or partitioned septic tank and run off, like any USA regulation housing project. A violation of any foreign building code. The streets do not have culverts for the rainy seasons, the streets are not asphalt paved. These were government built suburbs, built by government architects and engineers. Those smoke trails rising above tree top and house level, represent the number of families so poor, they cannot afford to cook using butane gas, but must collect firewood and cook over an outdoor backyard fire heart. In this district town suburb this is mostly done under a tree, not like the Cayes that have separate fire heart wood kitchens for cooking. Most of these families are so poor that are cooking over wood fires to feed their families, but are considered rich, by local community standards and are middle class teachers and policemen, in the $1200 Bz cash flow per month salaried level. By the standards of most people in rural areas, this minimal middle class, cash flow is a bonanza and put such government salaried workers solidly in the rich middle class. The majority of the population live on a lot less money, when they can get it.

The founders of the idea of bringing in the USA building regulations into Belize, have a real problem dealing with the reality of Belize and the majority of the cash flow levels of the most of the population. Not everything should be judged from the viewpoint of the educated professional contractor, engineer, civil servant and other educated elite of the port town of Belize City. These port city and Belmopan town people, the privileged elite few they are, have a lot more money than 84% of the population.
The fees being suggested and revenue enhancing regulations being imposed under the Building ACT; that ALL the people polled thought the idea preposterous and ridiculous. Ordinary people simply do not build that way in Belize. They are scattered so far and wide and imported materials are so expensive, that construction is usually done over a number of years during the life time of a family, as they can afford it. Buildings are done as affordable and usually to suit local environmental living conditions, which vary from area to area in the nation of Belize. This is the tropics and outdoor living is very practical.
The major thing is the export economy of Belize and this Building Act being implemented cannot but HURT the country of Belize. The revenue gathering fees and permits and licenses projected will push the majority of the population into worse poverty. It will freeze construction projects currently underway and absolutely freeze foreign investment. Uncontrolled shanty towns will be the result. The idea that the red tape of an industrialized, heavily populated country can be applied to a very small population, scattered through a large rural country in comparison, living in primitive pioneering conditions of muddy roads and country life, producing almost nothing that the industrialized world produces, is so far out of touch with reality of life in Belize, one has to wonder where the intellectuals went wrong? This is an idiotic disaster that is being imposed on Belize life was the Western Cayo District POLL consensus. This is no way to build a nation. We haven’t reached the population levels yet to warrant such ideas, though no doubt that will come some day in the future. When we break the million population mark possibly?

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