Home Economics – Obama win – implications for Belize
Thursday, November 15, 2012, 6:17
By Richard Harrison
President Barrack Obama has won a second 4-year term in office.
Most Belizeans are happy with this result.
Many Belizeans, and especially those living in cyberspace, showed a lot of interest in the US presidential elections, offering public support for the Obama campaign.
This interest by Belizeans in US politics is rightly placed.
The USA is Belize’s largest trading partner. In 2009, Belize imported BZ$464 million from the US, while it exported BZ$162 million to the US....a trade deficit of $302 million. This amounts for 35% of our declared imports, and 32% of our declared exports. One out of every three dollars that we spend abroad....and one out of every three dollars that we earn from export of goods....comes from the USA.
This does not tell the whole story:
1. The US is also host to approximately 350,000 Belizeans and their offsprings...who are responsible for many millions of US dollars being sent to Belize every year as remittances.
2. The US is also the origin of over 80% of tourist visitors to Belize, with tourism contributing over 25% of our economy.
3. The US is also the origin of most of the Foreign Direct Investments in Belize....especially in the tourism sector, farmed shrimps, papaya, mining, sugar, air-transport, timber/forestry.
4. The US is also the origin of many charity groups that do a lot of work in Belize...medical teams, school buildings, Christian groups, school sponsorships, self-help programs, community and social workers, Peace Corps, Jesuit Volunteers, teaching assistants, etc etc., which total combines to a significant sum.
5. The Belize dollar is pegged to the US dollar BZ$2 = US$1
Belize’s reality is inextricably linked to the US reality. Some have said, that when the US sneezes, Belize catches a full blown flu.
Belize has not learned how to extract what it could from its relations with the US.
Over the past four years, US official contribution to Belize has primarily been focused on safety and security arrangements....with training and materials assistance for the BDF, Police and other law enforcement efforts.
Belize needs to extract more from its relations with the US, and here are some ideas that the Belize government can pursue through the friendly allies at the US Embassy in Belize:
1. Debt-for-Education - Belize’s debt is currently unsustainable. Many US students and faculty would love the opportunity to study/teach in Belize, a tropical paradise. There already exists various cooperation and collaboration between Belize and US educational institutions. Belize needs to pursue the new Obama administration, to obtain assistance for the structuring of a major debt-for-education swap....such that the US pays US$15 million per year towards Belize’s foreign debt....and Belize pays local educational institutions for the education of about 2000 US citizens per year in Belize. This is a reasonable capacity for our existing institutions, primarily UB and Galen University. Belize would have to invest in upgrading our institutions capacity and capability....so that quality allows for recognition of the credits by US-based institutions.
2. USAID - Belize was removed from the list of countries that qualified for USAID funding in the 1990’s. USAID work in Belize led to the ONLY industries that we have developed since Independence.....tourism, meat processing, diary production, juices, papaya, farmed shrimps/fish...it helped with the formation of a private sector organization....with a blueprint for economic progress, complete with sector, sub-sector and industry analysis. Belize is helping to ease the burden in Central America, by accepting large amounts of relatively poor immigrants from those countries to settle in Belize...so much so, that Belize’s literacy rate, unemployment and poverty rates have shot up over the past two decades. Belize needs to argue strongly with the Obama administration....that Belize’s deteriorating social fundamentals qualify Belize for assistance under the USAID projects....just as Central American countries who currently are benefiting.
3. INDEPENDENCE - The US government has a lot to say in geo-political circles. The Belize government needs to pursue the Obama administration aggressively with building awareness, understanding and support for Belize’s INDEPENDENT status as established in the UN Charter. All the state representatives, especially those that have supported the Obama victory....must now support the Belize agenda. The US has a Federal Government, state governments and municipal governments....they ALL influence the foreign relations decisions of the US government. Belize needs to gain more traction with the State Governments in the US....especially for supporting Belize’s INDEPENDENT status....but also for many other issues....ie. enhancing the status of Belizeans living in the US...in-state tuition for Belizeans at US state-owned universities...business sector exchanges....charity exchanges as exist with some Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs, etc....technical cooperation as used to exist with Michigan State University....etc.
Congratulations to President Obama!!! He should know that he has a very loyal constituency of Belizeans, however small, supporting him hook, line and sinker.
The taste of the pudding is in the eating....and we have a lot to do in the preparation of the pudding.
Richard Harrison is a local businessman and investor in the manufacturing and service industries. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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