Thursday, November 18, 2010


Belize is at a turning point, just emerging from colonial trappings on investment and politics. The small population of Belize in the past, made the limits of commerce and trade mostly available to big outside foreign investment. In the colonial manner, commerce and trade such as it was, used the colonial exploitation methodology. Times are changing, During the colonial era and during the 20 years of the Price Self Government years, practically all foreign investment was by Belize standards large scale. Due to the hundreds of millions of dollars involved, there was nobody on the local scene that could escape such slave status to outside investment. At that time the leader of the economic and trade cycle was Mr. King. ( now retired ) His place these days in this era is Mr. Waight at the top of the pyramid as the guiding hand and economic counselor for our amateur political elected cabinet. Back in the days of the senior civil servant Mr. King, the local merchant colony doing imports were the kingpins of making money and getting rich. Nearly all wealth internally in British Honduras was merchant owned by import distributorships. Being a lawyer was the next money making step in the hierarchy. Nowadays there are plenty of farmers and supermarket families making more money than either the civil servant, the politician and the lawyer. Times are a changing!
The economic picture and movement is slowly drifting toward a different type of country of Belize. Sort of a LITTLE SWITZERLAND OF THE AMERICAS. A country in which Dr. Hausman of Harvard University Economics say the average income can rise to $40,000 a year in twenty years, if we do it right. In which wealth while still concentrated in the hands of importers, the distributor exclusive orientation is shifting to producers and processors and exporters. Indeed, there is no other way for Belize to raise the standard of living, or build the infra structure that requires mountains of government revenues. In this era of development, it has fallen on the shoulders of Mr. Waight to guide the changeover in the economy of Belize and we can only hope he is as much equal to the challenges of the day as his predecessor Mr. King.
Higher tertiary education has produced an abundance of academically qualified persons for almost every field of expertise under the sun. Except trade, engineering and manufacturing. Not every academically educated person is suited for trade and commerce, which is what experts Belize needs, at this economic juncture. What we have is a pack of dogs, barking, biting, snarling and fighting over government civil service positions, looking for the SECURITY of a salaried and pensioned job working for a salary. Education so far in Belize has helped with a more intelligent and articulate speaking civil service as the participants in this FREE FOR ALL fight for security and tenure, so the improvements in education are not all lost. My wife who is a well educated retired bureaucratic administrator, mentioned to me the other day while watching the UWI representatives on the TV local news, gabbing away with their sales pitch in some news conference and looked sideways at me and said “ typical bureaucratic bull (manure ). I laughed and agreed. Being articulate doesn´t make them right. Formal education though is not producing what we need in this country, which is the entrepreneur, the focused individual, the ambitious dreamer, the person with guts, foresight and determination. Characteristics that are more genetically inherited than taught. The old argument is; genes or environment that makes a person.
Recent improvements in competitive internet services are starting to result in the spread of tentacles of internet availability down the rural byways and back roads to the rural population, from which undoubtedly if history is any guide, will come the next generation of economic trade and commerce improvements. The leaders of commerce who will change this small nation of Belize. The internet is changing albeit slowly, the way education is practiced in this country. Most people can now teach themselves HOW TO DO ANYTHING, as the world’s library and expertise via the internet, becomes available to the rural population. Education is now more to do with arithmetic, reading and writing, and the ability to speak some foreign languages and the ability to type on a keyboard and maneuver within the ever changing formats of specialized software systems on the computer. These are compulsory subjects, mandatory for any student of the school environment today, for the future.
That said; teaching HOW TO BE A SUCCESSFUL entrepreneur is not always an easy task. Yes it can be taught in a small way. But in the big way, the way that will change the economy of Belize to International Trade and Commerce, the successful results will come from just a few stubborn dedicated individuals with a dream and focus based on genetically inherited characteristics. They can be helped along, but HOW TO HELP find the nugget of gold character in a pile of gravel?
Therein lies the challenge of Mr. Waight at the top of the government bureaucratic pyramid of leadership. Some things will have to change!
It could be imported materials and parts for manufacture will have to come in duty free. In order to manufacture something for export. Exporting in the new era will be the engine that drives our economic growth. True there are mechanisms already in place to aid in fostering such investments. They do however seem to perform inadequately. You have EPZ’s, there is at least one FREE TRADE ZONE. There is another on the Western border, yet unfinished, nor yet open. What we are looking at here, is the backyard, kitchen based manufacturer startup. Somebody with $5000 and the will to try something new with his, or her risk capital and lots of sweat equity. From small acorns great oak trees grow. We have to eliminate and grease the ability for commerce and trade to grow and expand. That will take some revenue sacrifice in the systems of bureaucratic management.
I´m going to suggest something. A stream lining of the bureaucratic red tape and expenses being charged for small start up businesses. How to categorize a small business? The limit could probably be anything under $2 million dollars, or even $500,000. That permits and licenses and other government revenue fees be cancelled, or so small as to not swamp an economic startup venture. Somehow the encouraging environment has to be improved. Dr. Hausman called this the TRANSFORMATIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. This is valid not only for exporting goods, but also for CLUSTERS of local producers of parts and odd job service work, to enable the finished product to be accomplished.
The ball is now in the court of Mr. Waight and the Cabinet.

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