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  • Threats to Economic Freedom in Belize?

    Although Belize has made some progress on its Index of Economic Freedom score in the past few years, recent actions by the government of Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the supermajority his United Democratic Party enjoys in Parliament may have put that progress at risk.

    Belize is increasingly wracked by violent crime, while its high debt burden is a strain on public finance. The illegal drug trade and money laundering are entrenched problems. The Barrow government took office in February 2008 and has close relations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, due in part to the many foreign aid petro-dollars he sends to the country.

    In return, apparently, the Barrow government may have agreed to play by Chavez’s populist rules: expropriation of private property, centralization of power in the executive (in the name of the people), attacks on the independence of the judiciary, and a crackdown on private media and freedom of expression.

    In August 2009, for example, the leading private telecommunications provider in Belize was taken over by the government, which offered no compensation to the owners. The opposition People’s United Party branded the action an “expropriation,” although the U.S. State Department and The Economist magazine call it “nationalization.”

    Meanwhile, according to two former opposition party attorneys general of Belize, the Barrow government is ignoring or backing out of international arbitration treaties and agreements and punishing or fining those companies who seek international arbitration to settle investment disputes. The government is said to be expropriating land without providing compensation at an increasing rate.

    Finally, the executive branch has attacked the independence of the country’s judiciary, prompting many distinguished jurists to resign. It has also begun to harass owners of opposition media outlets. Belize has dropped from being ranked 66th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2006 to 109th out of 180 countries in 2008. It was not ranked in 2009 or 2010.

    The Barrow government’s tactics are similar to those long since deployed in Venezuela by President Chavez and by his allies in other Latin American countries. Given that Belize is right next door to Honduras, where Chavez ally and ex-President Manuel Zelaya tried the same sort of approach last year (albeit with a far different outcome), perhaps it should not come as a surprise.

    The Obama Administration should express the concern of the U.S. government about this pattern of behavior by the government of Belize and urge it to return to the path toward market-based democracy from which it appears to have strayed.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Threats to Economic Freedom in Belize?

    1. Belizean says:

      This article is surprisingly hitting the nail on the head, they left out the fact that the attorney general does nothing positive and all the legal work goes to the PM ex wife who is calling the shot. The PM son was named ambassador of music and has never done a song in Belize nor about Belize, his next son was named director of BTL with absolutely no experience and no function but to be paid and have a vote. The judges that were logical were shown the door and all his rubber stamp remain. Crime has increased in the area where the PM is the minister, he was able to meet with the gang leaders but then said he don't know who is doing the crime.

      The Caricom leaders have remain quiet, the USA is quiet and the people are suffering. What will happen when they can no longer take it?

    2. Pingback: » Financial News Update – 12/16/10 NoisyRoom.net: The Progressive Hunter

    3. concerned says:

      I agree with Belizean. And don't forget the glaring Immigration and Defence Scandal. The arrangement is for foreign nationals to go to a Belize Embassy in a country, and if there isn't one, go to the nearest British Embassy and apply for a single entry visitors visa. then an interview takes place, followed by the information sent to belmopan and inquiries with Interpol to check backgrounds before visas are issued at the embassy or consulate.

      But a large sum of visas were mailed from Sri Lanka, Nigeria, China, Somalia and Kenya to Belize. Agents then paid immigration officers to sign and stamp the visas which were mailed back out of the country. the evidence is there with the signatures and stamps. the Minister of Immigration admitted he was involved in giving visas that went through CUBA, the main source of where many questionable visas were issued. The former director of Immigration said he acted on direction of the Immigration Minister Carlos Perdomo. But all that happened and was aired on that media house which is now embargoed by the government. Where is the investigation into the scandal? No one wants to talk about it or prosecute. But the punishment for airing the truth, that's what the government has done. allow everybody to issue their versions of events. freeedom of speech. and teh judiciary, well. Abdulai Conteh is in Bahamas now, he left Belize for democracy.

    4. Houston says:

      Belize gov did what it need to do for the people. They do what the gov of U.S do everyday. Stay out of Belize business you don't know what your talking about. One man in Belize is trying to control a country, Ashcroft is the man that is trying to own Belize. you should read more about him and not say things you don't know.

    5. bzmar, belize says:

      This is a joke,

      "The Obama Administration should express the concern of the U.S. government about this pattern of behavior by the government of Belize and urge it to return to the path toward market-based democracy from which it appears to have strayed."

      The US has its own problems, crazy problems for puttings its nose in almost every country trying to tell people what to do. NO wonder the US citizens are sick of them, because they no longer have "Freedom".

    6. A. Perez, USA says:

      While I agree with the gist of this article on Belize, the picture may be a bit more convoluted. First of all, our parliamentary democracy or constitutional monarchy allows for the concentration of power/authority on a central government and in essence is more of a unicameral legislative body as the senate is more " rubber stamp " in nature and for that matter is unelected. Furthermore, the executive arm of government emanates from the elected members of the House of Representatives or from the appointed senators and therefore such a cabinet performs both legislative and executive powers, which may not be exactly ideal. This should be kept in perspective when a party with a majority of members of the house of representatives get elected and subsequently hold every key ministerial portfolios as a result of the spoils system. There exists no substantive oversight in a somewhat symbiotic relationship and therefore no accountability on the part of the government to it's citizens.

      With that in mind, consider what the election cycles have produced when you have characters of questionable integrity placed in these positions of power/authority. Yes power does corrupt and there has been in Belize's history several examples regardless of which of the two dominant parties form the government of the day. The potential for corrupt benefits would seem limitless and hence both parties love the system as it is. The current regime is a reflection of the previous regime who lasted for ten years and ran the country off its tracks. One interesting note may lie in the fact that both the previous prime minister and the current one are both lawyers and I assume colleagues of the Belize Bar Association ( BBA ). One another note, Belize has and continue to have questionable diplomatic/economic relationships with countries such as Cuba for decades and now Venezuela and not necessarily so beneficial to its citizen. However, as the saying goes " If you lie with dogs, you are liable to catch fleas ". Belize in my opinion has been affected by such associations and perhaps may not have hit the bottom yet. The two countries mentioned above are not exactly beacons of the fair and open democratic policies, whereas on the other hand at least in Belize, not a perfect democracy but continues to exercise an electoral process that is unquestionably above board and exhibits better integrity and validity than Venezuela and Cuba and even the USA. which brings me back to my final thought.

      I am not so sure how a fair comparison to some degree can be made with our USA, but one does not need rocket science to tell that this present administration at best ignores the will of the people and living in a proverbial " glass house " as it relates to other countries. In my few decades of life, I have never seen an administration who is so bent on controlling individual lives through a variety of questionable legislative moves, all the while selling the perception that a government is so caring about its citizens. I don't believe the founding fathers have individual freedoms enshrined in the constitution for no reason considering what they had to deal with in old Europe. For all I know the current Prime Minister of Belize and the current President met last year in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and may have discovered more in common than meets the eye. The Hondurans were smart to deal with their crisis in the appropriate manner once they recognized the potential danger that loomed and opted to honor the tenets of their constitution and you may remember what we did to help, nothing as I recall.

      Finally, when it comes to the judiciary in Belize, yes I absolutely agree that some of the actions by the government is not helpful for practicing democracies, however, this is not exactly novel to Belize, but it's unprecedented and that is very disturbing. That said however, some of the court rulings have been questionable at best as it relates to mischievous meddling by external elements who ignore what I would consider the sanctity of a country's internal affairs. Here I think we are just looking at the surface of the matter. One would have to dig deeper into some actions taken by the court and its rulings against the citizens of that country brought on by other citizens within the country enabled by institutions from this country. Just remember that a country divided will not stand forever and to some degree Belize is an amazing melting pot unified by language and has for the most part enjoyed relative peace and harmony and with this anecdote I digress.

    7. LG, Belize says:

      You make some good points because I do believe it was stupid to attempt to silence the media on the issue of biased Ch. 5 attacks, everyone knows Belize has no independent media. Your paper is too BIAS, your journalism seeks to convince people that the Barrow administration is the worst thing ever happened to Belize and you don't explore the reasons why certain things happened. You forget to mention the secret accommodation agreements that Lord Michael Ashcroft had with the Said Musa administration and as you mention that "Belize dropped from being ranked 66th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in 2006 to 109th out of 180 countries in 2008." You forget to point out that this time period was when the PUP was still in power.

      I challenge your writing just because I can, I decide to think critical and not subject to whatever story I read. I hope my fellow Belizeans learnt to do the same.

      To go, ketchup & peppa? No Independent Belize Media http://bit.ly/9T6HrZ

    8. sufferer says:

      Don't blame Ashcroft, the Prime Minister makes the most money from Ashcroft. But when you have a convicted gun slinging person who has been denied a visa for Europe, deported from the US and you make him an AMBASSADOR…. you crazy.

      Shyne is a disgrace to represent Belize, what exactly has he done for Belize? Minister Perdomo was in charge of the police, crime rose and he got promoted to immigration, messed that up then got promoted to acting PM.

    9. LG, Belize says:

      In the above comment I'm not trying to portray myself as pro-UDP… I know that PM Barrow was once Ashcroft's lawyer and as one of my friend likes to say, 'he assisted in creating all those secret accommodation agreements.. as long as he was making a buck.'

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