Wednesday, August 25, 2010


By Ray Auxillou, August, 2010

When the country is broke and running on debt, loans, grants and volunteer gifts, it is hard to find a political and pragmatic investment direction for the future population growth. Until now, for the most part, the population of Belize has been too small and scattered in small communities over wide land areas. With only 350,000 people, most under 15 years of age and around 6000 square miles of land, including 26% that is in some sort of protected area status, the ability to generate the kind of tax revenues needed is severely limited. The biggest earners are the 14,000 member government paid civil service people and it is their spending clout that drives the economy of Belize such as it is.
It is rather amazing that Belize has done as well as it has, considering the financial constraints and limited werewithall. There is a huge proportion of the population that are middle class, with cars, televisions, refrigerators and washing machines. We have our poor segment, but generally speaking the standard of living of Belizeans is much higher than it was 50 years ago.
SKILLS TRAINING is probably the biggest current obstacle to improving the economy and it is surely apparent that the current crop of civil servants and politicians, do not understand how to direct the future growth of the economy. The current pillars of the economy are agriculture, oil and tourism. We are just starting with the private sector going into food processing and packaging for the export market. Indeed, the future of the economy totally revolves around the ability to export things to earn foreign exchange and provide local jobs.
The next major step in establishing a solid economic model is light manufacturing of specialist goods, for niche markets. With the internet, sales around the world can be enjoyed. When we talk about light manufacturing, we are talking things like solar panels, ethanol stills, budget telescopes and other things that require some simple machinery, some tooling and the ability to import the raw materials and put them together to make something to sell on the world export market. We cannot compete with mass produced products from CHINA, but we can cater to specialist small niche markets and here it is important to go for low price, coupled with quality workmanship.
A recent study in home industry light manufacturing, Galileo cardboard tube telescopes in Western Belize found out that if such telescopes could be retailed for $14.95 USA on the internet the market is solid for this price range. There is an outfit that exports from the USA, about 20,000 such cheap telescopes a month through the internet. There is also lots of competition in the $30 usa to $500 usa telescope range. This particular outfit from which I had tried to buy one, as a sample, refused my order because they were enjoying such success ( over 100,000 telescopes shipped ) and had decided to double the price from $14.95 to $30 usa. I canceled my order of course. For a few dollars more you can get a really much better telescope. The point being, it was the price that was attracting sales! Galileo telescopes are alright, if you can disregard the money spent. The vision is blurry for land use, but they are excellent for studying the stars, moon, Venus, Jupiter and Mars. They tend to shake. I owned one of these on Caye Caulker 30 years ago. I could watch couples make love a mile away on a boat by the barrier reef, from the window of my shack on the beach in Caye Caulker. For the price, though not perfect, they were a fair bargain for the buyer and only have two lenses.
I point this out, as an example of niche markets and the effect PRICE has on marketing by the INTERNET to a world wide market, using the postal service.
Our educational system is not teaching the SKILLS necessary to build this needed extra leg of our light manufacturing economic need. Local ITVET community colleges are teaching how to service machinery of imported manufacture, like automobiles and air conditioners, but they are not teaching the SKILLS, how to make things. To manufacture, to search and find the small tools and machinery needed to do small production lines of making cardboard tubes, convex and concave lenses. A phone call to the port spectacle eye glass manufacturer found that the machine used to produce lenses for eye glasses would not make the lenses for telescopes. The SKILLS TRAINING needed is different than standard education currently employed in Belize. With 11,000 children unable to even attend primary school because of the lack of such schools in the country is a case in point. The majority of schools are built and run by religious cults. It is obvious some SKILLS TRAINING should start at the senior grades of the primary school level. Then increase in Junior High School grades. The majority of citizens of Belize do not ever get any further in education, All the higher tertiary stuff in College and University is only producing middle level business managers, or bureaucratic clerks working for a salary, coming from an elite class. So far, the educational establishment have been unable to put a practical direction on such ideas.
The thing is; SKILLS TRAINING for the missing other LEG OF OUR ECONOMY, light manufacturing, has no current leadership, no direction, no educational skills being taught. Cabinet policy is totally absent and most of our elected representatives do not have enough smarts to even understand the problem. We need a new generation of thinkers to tackle this, our very existence as a viable country relies on our ability to export light manufactured goods to specialist niche markets.

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