There is no Shortcut to achieve Sustainable Development

In our last article, I made the point that spending on our education system without special attention to quality is a formula for waste and frustration, leading to diminished expectations and an exacerbation of our problems in Belize.  Quality is the result of an attitude and culture that promotes excellence, manifested by a passion for details and a desire to make others fulfilled.

There are too many sectors lacking severely in quality, in turn negatively affecting our entire country and our future.  Most of our public services sector falls short when it comes to quality.  The first thing that must be addressed is the leadership which is responsible for genuine positive change.

We must applaud good leadership when and where we see it. We saw it in the sugar industry with the positive developments in areas such as the cane delivery system and the education program led by SIRDI. We see it with the energetic and productive Mayor of Belize City making positive things happen.  We see it with leaders in the environmental and community-based NGOs and Christian communities standing up for what they believe.  And there are other areas, but much more is needed, much more at all levels.

These few but important examples give us great hope that more people will rise and exhibit human agency, which was described in a previous article as “a willingness to serve others without expecting or wanting to get anything back from those served”.

In other countries that have found a path to sustainable development, their experience always includes a unity of vision. This unity is either built purposefully through the human agency of many (collectively building social capital) or the consequence of grand causes such as conflict or exceptional leadership that brings citizens together, or a combination of both.

In Belize we recently experienced “togetherness” as we all backed our national football selection in the Gold Cup tournament.  Among the various lessons we learnt from this experience is the fact that we can come together as a people and that sports is a powerful way to do just that. However, when it comes to comprehensive long-term unity that will make sports an important part of our cohesiveness, we must promote exceptional leadership and an effective process to build unity of vision.

Horizon 2030 is a great start for us to begin building upon a unified vision. This critical second step of unity of vision requires leadership first, to be able to bring our people together for a common cause. We need to all agree on a broad set of values, a long term vision, and a strategy of how we will get there.  That is what Horizon 2030 is all about. If you have not had a chance to read it, then I encourage you to do so.

My recommended sequence to get us to a path to sustainable development is first strong leadership, second a unity of vision (taking ownership of Horizon 2030 is critical), third quality Education with a focus on the tertiary level, and fourth, improved productivity that is required to increase our standard of living and capabilities to achieve our vision. These are the basics that will then empower us to deal properly with economic, social, environmental and institutional sustainability.

The common requirement throughout this process is a change of attitude and culture, manifested by having respect for each other, serving others and happily volunteering, having a passion for quality work, and taking ownership of our future.  This improvement in our character calls for sacrifice now for benefits later. It means understanding that there is no shortcut to success, that there is no shortcut to sustainable development.

What is happening today in Belize is that we are divided in our pursuits and so weaker because of it.  When we all recognize that we all want a better Belize, and that we MUST work together to get there, then we will begin to recognize the value of a common vision and we can then start to become efficient as a nation, as a people, in getting there.  This recognition will only become widespread when we have strong leadership become widespread; when our few present strong leaders merge onto the same road.

One of the great things we have done as a nation is to develop NEMO.  We recognized that natural disasters can devastate us and we came together and created a mechanism to deal with it.  I very strongly suggest to you that we must now recognize that we are our own most dangerous threat, and so we MUST come together to build a mechanism that is not just reactive or short-term, but one that is proactive and long-term.

The good news is that much of the tools for building this mechanism come from the fields of sustainable development and human development.  We have some, although surely not enough, good examples of strong leadership in our country.  Some work has been done with Horizon 2030 on creating unity of vision on which we need to build. We know the weaknesses in our education system.  And we understand the need to become more productive and to improve our attitudes.

So now let us see a merging onto the path to sustainable development. It is a path that is long-term in view, caring both for our welfare and the welfare of our children and future generations, a path where many more of our people embrace the joy of human agency.  It is not a shortcut, but instead a common destination that we must travel together as a Belizean family. Thanks to our national football team for giving us a little taste of the beauty of unity.  Leaders, it starts with you. Let us merge and synergize.

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