In his inspirational Independence Day message, speaking from the steps of the National Assembly Building in Belmopan, Prime Minister paid eloquent tribute to the late George Cadle Price, the Father of Belize Independence.
But he also paid tribute to other less well known Belizean heroes, and made the claim that “we have marked a number of milestones that are testament to our continued progress as a nation.
“We have shown that we grow and mature and shape and stamp our destiny; that we construct a wonderful, ever expanding democracy, a vital, vibrant society of both integrity and elasticity. Thus, the Belize brand is daily more distinguished and makes its mark increasingly on our region and the world.
Concerning the late George Price, the Prime Minister said:
“Now we just a few days ago observed the one year anniversary of Mr. Price’s death. And obviously the divine providence in which he so wholly believed, arranged things so that, even in terms of dates, our Independence Day reflections will ever hereafter be centrally linked to the remembrances of the life and work of George Cadle Price.
“Today then, we celebrate him even as we celebrate Belize. And we know that from that special place in the pantheon which he occupies together with Philip Goldson, his benediction continues to envelope us. This is thus the time to make an Independence Day announcement regarding these two, who shall always remain the brightest stars in our modern historical firmament:
“The Government of Belize, in conjunction with the National Celebrations Commmittee, is officially renaming the Western Highway the George Price Highway, and the Northern Highway the Philip S.W. Goldson Highway”
Concerning Belize’s unsung Belizean heroes, the Prime Minister went on to say:
“I speak of the young Rowan Garel, physically without sight, whose daily existence must in so many ways be a challenge, but who brought this nation to its feet, applauding his exploits in scaling literally and metaphorically our highest peak: a boy walking across our land and casting the shadow of a giant.
I speak of the firefighters in Belize City who were fearless in the face of the potential annihilation that threatened them moment by moment as they doused the flames from the butane tanks on fire at Mile 2 on the Western Highway.
Of Bravery and
“I speak of the citizens of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and BenqueViejo, banding together to help solve the despicable murder of the youthful and so-so-promising Jasmine Lowe, her parents beautiful and bright-eyed daughter. I speak of how the residents signalled by action their refusal to allow their community to slide into the abyss and the predator presaged.
“I speak of their continuing anti-crime solidarity which has resulted now in the Cayo District having countrywide the lowest incidence of murder and violence.
“I speak of the tremendous coming together of large numbers from all walks of life in the inspiration telethon that raised over a million dollars in one day. It was a cause for the differently abled among us. It was cause that shows we an take care of our own. And it was a cause that immeasurably ennobled the nation.
“I speak of Police Constable Victor Lima, who in order to protect and serve, gave his life for Belize.
“I speak of Dr. Adrian Coye and Dr. Joel Cervantes (and their colleagues at the KHMH) who successfully and respectively performed the first open heart and spinal sclerosis surgeries in this country.
“And finally I speak of the members of our National Debt Restructring Team, engaged in the high enterprise of helping us recover fiscal sutainability and survivability, fighting thereby another post-independence battle for Belize; conducting a second internationalizatio campaign; making Belize’s case to Bondholders, but also to the Directors of the IMF and the representatives of the various countries on the IDB board, pressing forward in the unrelenting manner that this existential issue demands, and operating with such force and forensic passion so as to make us absolutely confident of the success we deserve.
“Your Excellency, Ladies and gentlemen: These are the sorts of personalities and events that etched themselves upon the national consciousness in the 31st year of our independence; that burnished the proud legacy that this young country is already heir to; that serviced the ever-renewing wellsprings of our patriotism and sovereignty”
The Prime Minister’s speech was not all roses and apple blossoms. He addressed the crime situation of Belize’s being among the Top Ten most violent countries with the following candid observations:
“When we come to lament the seemingly intractability of this citizen security issue, some may be forgiven for feeling discouraged. We have tried well-nigh everything. Yet far from permanently improving, the situation overall seems merely to get slightly better, then worse again.
“But if this challenge won’t go away anytime soon, neither can out determination to confront it. And we have had some successes.
“Indeed, in international forums Belize’s program of social interventions and initiatives have received rave reviews. Now this might be cold comfort since the successes we have enjoyed have all turned out to be temporary
“But virtue does not have to be its own reward. Attracted by the quality of our efforts, one of the largest social violence reduction organizations in the world is coming to Belize to assist with funding and capacity building
“Similarly the Government of India has offered technical and operational assistance to our Ministry of National Security. Thus a well credentialled law-and-order expert from the sub-continent should be in post soon as adviser to the Belize Police Force.
“Meanwhile, our sense of urgency and resolve has in no wise abated. Thus the Police are forming a number of additional specialized intelligence and operational units in order to ramp up the continuing interdiction efforts.
Likewise, a Cabinet subcommittee has been appointed to work with Restore Belize on a new, sustainable strategy for getting youths out of the hellhold of nihiism and violence that is gang life in Belize.
Finally the Prime Minister had some relatively good news on the economy. He said:
BTL and BEL
“Sovereignty and autonomy must of course, always be among the most dominant notes we strike on Independence Day. And in that context we point with satisfaction to the fact that our nationalized essential utilities companies continue to move from strength to strength.Telemedia continues to give lower call rats generally and free internet to over 40 NGO’s and 200 schools at all levels, and it $30 million 4-G rollout begins next month.
“And BEL, after reducing our people’s electricity bills by 12 million dollars, is still operationally strong, servicing its debts and making its financial way forward. “I point again to the capital expenditure programs of both countries as huge drivers of economic activity, growth and employment in the Belizean eonomy. And I repeat that there simply no way we will ever allow any retreat from this high point in the catalogue of Belizean nationalist accomplishments.
Foreign investors interested
“It is also noteworthy in this regard that the Cassandras who predicted the stalling and drying up of foreign investments as a consequence if the nationalizations, have been completely confounded by events.
“Exhibit one in this context is the $200 million dollar investment of ASR in Belize’s sugary industry, and the Green Tropic project to plant cane in Cayo.
“Also the Bowen shrimp farm is back up and running, thanks to significant foreign equity partnership.
“Our business outsourcing and near shoring initiative continues to pay dividends, and there are now upwards of 2,000 persons employed by the ever-increasing FDI-sponsored number of call centers.
“There is a magnificent tourism resurgence taking place which has seen an 8 percent visitor increase between January and June of this year over last year and 126 and 23 percent in July and August 2012 over 2011.
“The good news is to be topped off shortly by the Qatari Diar’s purchase of Caye Chapel. This will then lead to a Four Seasons branded, five-star hotel on the property.
“Talks proceed apace with Turkish investors who plan to invest in both container and cruise ports in Belize.
Wall Street money want to come in to pant thousands of acres of grain for export and for local feed.
“The cattle sweep has been completed in Blue Creek, paving the way for legal livestock trade with Mexico.
Race to the Top
“New and more lucrative marketing arrangements have been concluded by our banana farmers, and the first of several small business centers has been chartered by Government in the continuing effort to assist young entrepreneurs and grow the middle class.
“As we continue to build this country, nothing is more important to our democracy than the expansion of the political space inhabited by the present groups and social partners.
“I believe the dialogue and cooperation in this regard has broadened.
The public/private sector initiative of which the business forum is emblematic continues with its work. And the conversations with Labour is intensifying as we seek to entrench and expand the gains of the working class.
“So we celebrate today. And we are inspired by the progress made, uplifted by the examples of all around us of advance, of a new Belizean race to the top”.