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October 19
12:27 2018

“The objectives of the Chamber shall be: (a) to foster the economic growth and social well-being of Belize through the free-enterprise system at all levels by promoting and protecting both nationally and internationally, commerce, all sectors of industry and agriculture, including agri-business, tourism and manufacturing, the professions and the trades”—Section 6 of the BCCI Act.

“Any member may be expelled for breaches of the Constitution of the Chamber, conduct inconsistent with the laws of Belize as determined by the legal process and a ‘Code of Conduct’ as prescribed by the Constitution of Belize”—the BCCI Act.

By law, it is the BCCI’s responsibility to look out for all businesses, regardless of their size or industry. This much is made clear in Section 6 of the BCCI Act quoted above, and given that the majority of firms in Belize would be classified as either micro, small, or medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), much of our attention continues to be on making sure the economy’s “backbone” remains healthy.

It is the adherence to that goal that serves as the driving force behind our annual September Expo, and the recently launched Made-in-Belize Expo. The primary objective is to provide MSMEs an opportunity to market their products or services to an audience numbering in the thousands at a fraction of the cost of traditional means.

As part of our mandate in helping our members market themselves, we have also revived the Business Perspective Show, which airs on Love FM/TV on Tuesday mornings. The BP show is designed to provide a space where local entrepreneurs can discuss and promote what they do. This week’s show was no different, as the BP Show’s panel was joined by the owners of two small businesses: Roxy’s Unique Hair Therapy Products and Green Care Limited. Actually, if we consider a micro enterprise to be an operation with less than five employees, then the proprietor of the former is one of our proud Micro Members.

Part of our “all inclusive” approach saw us embracing Craftastic J—a literally young business owned by 11-year-old entrepreneurial mind backed by a super-supportive parent—at last month’s September Expo. Therefore, in the Expo roster we had businesses ranging from “primary-schooler” young to Bowen-and-Bowen established. That is what we mean when we say “all”.

However, while that is ‘all’, there is one class of business that the BCCI, backed by law as shown in the second excerpt from the BCCI Act above, refuses to represent. That is, those businesses persons who engage in corrupt practices. That is correct. Regardless of the industry or the size of the company in question, the BCCI does not countenance corrupt or illegal practices, a fact that has been infused into our anti-corruption campaign.

Beyond the moral considerations, as have been discussed in this column before, corrupt and illegal practices have been shown to negatively impact economic growth and development, and therefore runs counter to our very “raison d’être”. While there have been many empirical researches on the topic, it was economist Pak Hung Mo who wrote:
“[A] one-unit increase in the corruption index reduces the growth rate by 0.545 percentage points. The most important channel through which corruption affects economic growth is political instability, which accounts for about 53% of the overall effect. The other channels include the level of human capital and the share of private investment. … Corruption is most prevalent where other forms of institutional inefficiency, such as bureaucratic red tape and weak legislative and judicial systems, are present.”

Considering the human capital channel, for example, it has been shown that corruption reduces return to investment (both physical and human). If we take one form of corruption such as nepotism into the mix, we find that a sort of thinking or subculture has emerged where utterances like “It’s not what you know, it’s ‘who’ you know” have become commonplace. More specifically, it speaks to paradigm in which it has become accepted that furthering one’s education may be futile, because appointments are likely based on nepotistic norms as opposed to merit. Mull over the same as it relates to physical investment and we could get the picture.

It is for these reasons and more that we require all BCCI members to adhere to a high standard that aligns with our “Code of Conduct” that shuns corruption and any form of illegality. And it is for this reason that we felt it necessary to publicly commend the Belize Mayor Bernard Wagner for “condemning an alleged attempted illegal gift, i.e. bribe to at least one City employee from a businessperson.”

In a BCCI press release we stated: “The BCCI encourages others to emphatically reject, publicly or privately, any attempts to be bribed or unduly influenced by anyone, whether they be public servants or members of the private sector. Each member of the BCCI has signed a Code of Conduct which includes adherence to the laws and regulations of Belize, and are each expected to act as champions against corruption. There will be no stronger or more impactful public-private partnership than one which cohesively joins forces to ‘break the chain of corruption’”

Now the media reports have not named the business person involved, but we are fairly certain that the person does form part of BCCI’s membership. However, even if it was someone from among our membership, our response would have been the same, and the “expulsion” clause quoted above would have taken effect. Fundamentally, as the empirical studies continue to show, it is literally too costly for any economy, especially a developing one, to entertain corruption in any of its many forms.

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