Editorial

Editorial

Any  Prime Minister of Belize  who has been elected to three consecutive terms would be wise to gird himself  for the torrent  of criticism which is sure to come his way, no matter how good or conscientious he may be. If some people saw our Prime Minister walking on water, they would not regard this as in any way  remarkable. They would simply say it’s because he can’t swim!                   .

Prime Minister Dean  Barrow has had more than his fair share of criticism. But  he has been able to move forward. And  no matter how tense or painful the situation, he never dodges the Press, but is always open and accessable.  Belize will not soon encounter another like him.

Criticisms levelled against him  emerge  principally from his  use of Petro Caribe Funds, the  irregularities of the Immigration Department and  the corruption in the Lands Department.

The mechanics of the Petro Caribe Fund give

the Prime Minister a wide  discretion over the use of the fund. Petro Caribe  is not part of  the Consolidated Revenue  Fund, and  the Prime Minister has the last word  on how the money is to be used.

The criticisms have been fierce and sustained, but one would be hard-pressed to find  any other Prime Minister in the region,  as conscientious.  The truth is that money from the Petro Caribe Fund has been generally well managed, going as it should, into  infrastructure for development.

The scathing criticism against  the Prime Minister for  the government misuse of nationality documents for economic gain is one of the areas where Mr. Barrow will have to take some  responsibility, although a fair assessment must take into account the genesis of whatwe euphemistically call  “economic citizenship”.            .

The government of Belize under the previous administration  of  Musa & Fonseca earned more than a hundred million dollars from economic citizenship, much of  which  never  saw the light of day.The outcry against the use of economic citizenship was so intense that Prime Minister Barrow  introduced legislation to end the practice altogether.

But the temptation for more of the easy money was too great for  some  UDP Ministers to resist.The love of money  undermined  the  honour and loyalty which  Ministers   should  have for  their  country and their party.

Elvin  Penner was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but he was not the only one glutting himself at the public trough. Others who were more circumspect  in covering their tracks have not yet been unmasked. The Barrow Cabinet  instinctively closed ranks to cover up  the malfeasance, because many Cabinet Ministers had  profitted  from  the illegal sale of passport  documents.                                     .

Prime Minister Barrow  faced  a  crisis which threatened his leadership and had the potential to topple his government. He  chose not to  do anything, and may have averted  the storm, were it not for a redoubtable and courageous woman, Accountant General Dorothy Bradley. The Prime Minister had followed a peace policy of appeasement, and lost!

Ignoring scandals in the Lands Department

similarly  followed a policy of peace and  appeasement until the scandal broke around  the head of Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega with such  resonance that there could be no ignoring it.

This was an especially hard blow for Mr.  Barrow, who had reposed such trust and confidence in Vega that he could  not bring himself to believe that this man, well off as he is, and so greatly loved by his constituents, would stoop to commit fraud on so massive a scale, bringing himself, his friend the Prime Minister, and  the whole UDP  ensemble  of  politicians into disrepute.

This  is  a crisis  from which  the party will  not  easily recover, since  the reconfiguration of the northern caucus  of the UDP  is still a matter of grave concern.

(Next week: the Reporter  will examine other

areas where in our view  Prime Minister Barrow  could have  done better).                                            .

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