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September 20
18:10 2018

Some years ago,I was speaking to a friend of mine, a brilliant political mind from the Middle East. He opened my eyes to look at corruption from a completely different angle.

Where I thought the Government was creaming from the top of the money pile, this conversation really made me look at incidents I have been exposed to in our country and made me understand better why politicians would risk their ‘reputations’ to protect seemingly common petty criminals.

Khaled AlSa’di said to me that our Government usesour judicial system to protect low-level officials or petty criminals, because they are key players in a criminal system. He said that in Belize we do not have a Government. We have a criminal network. So, it is wrong of me to say that our Government has failed us. It’s not the government that has failed; it is instead the well-greased criminal networkthat has succeeded.

Politicians do not pay off corrupt officials. It’s the other way around. Corrupt officials and drug peddlers are sending money up from the ground level to feed the network. The only way that corrupt governments can be stopped is by anti-corruption revolutions. It is the people that must unite and revolt! Now these are not my words. These are the words of one of my mentors, someone far more experienced and far more politically ‘wise’ than I am.

It is urgent that as a people we understand that the level of corruption we are experiencing in Belize is a powerful obstacle to our economic growth. Belizeans have forever complained about how dysfunctional our policies are and how many loop holes are left in our Constitution and bylaws; what we often do not realize is that they are left by highly educated lawyers and businessmen with the sole intention of creating incentives for our leaders and their business associates to short-circuit our laws and encourage investors to pay bribes to civil servants who then send the money up the ladder.

This level of corruptionhas destroyed any chance of Belizean prosperity – well,prosperity for Belizeans outside of the network that is. Did you all ever stop to wonder why our Government suddenly found the urgent need to invest in infrastructure projects around the country? They undertook projects of a larger complexity than was needed by our small country.

The beautification of our country is nice. We are enjoying it, but it supersedes the needs of such a small population; the public investment is obscene. It was all built with external loans and represents a very heavy burden to our children.Belize is headed down a very dark economic path. With very scarce resources to depend on, our Government has found it necessary to cut spending elsewhere. Some of those cuts are in human services, our security forces, our education, our health. You see these areas are not areas from which they can readily collect bribes, and when our security forces remain underpaid and under-resourced – well, it’s much easier to convince officers to partake in the corruption network.

Still, those are not the only areas corruption affects. Look at how it is killing budding entrepreneurs. Do you realize that it was difficult to collect bribes or to get campaign contributions from freelance tour guides? In every country I have visited, tour guides are allowed to freelance (or the word would not exist). In Belize recently, however, we killed that spirit and the tour guides now must work for a tour operator. I mean, we can not blame them. We have much less tour operators than tour guides and the operators now have less competition, so the politicians can expect them to be ‘very grateful.’

Corruption does not only kill our people’s chances of prosperity. It alsoopens doors to other forms of crime. Because corruption breeds corruption, our Government has left our doors open to mafias and organized criminal groups who use their financial power to infiltrate legal businesses, to intimidate authority, to create protection circles within our security forces and our house of representatives…and leave in their path a people filled with fear, depression and uncertainty. In Belize we are witnessing this now. Our very few clean Police Officers are overwhelmed, realizing that there is almost zero possibility that criminals will be caught. This, in turn, encourages more of our law enforcement and security forces to become corrupt, further crippling the country’ssecurity, safety, integrity and economic sustainability.

Our Government has gotten loans that they cannot pay. Still, they have vehicles that cost anywhere between 100K to 300K BZD.Our security forces and civil servants are underpaid while our diplomats and ministers are overpaid. Our ministers and representatives have a retirement fund, while our people must fight Social Security for pittances and most cannot afford to retire and enjoy what should have been their golden years.

Our children are at schools that cannot afford proper science labs, sport equipment or arts & music equipment. Our hospital lacks simple first aid kits and sanitary cleaners, but we are remodelling and building hospitals, with no real consultation with stakeholders.

To save a country that is so brainwashed by political parties and entrenched in such corruption, there will have to be bloodshed that may very well lead to civil war, pushing the country in a deeper cycle of violence. Corrupt governments such as ours become a security threat for the world, because they negotiate with gangs. They become incubators of terrorism.They participate in the narcotics business, money laundering, human trafficking, and other global crimes which put our country at risk of losing allies, loosing our International integrity, our economic stability, our credibility and at last, losing our territorial integrity – all in the name of corruption.

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