BELIZE JOURNAL, PT. 2. Belize unions and activist groups joined together on June 6 in an umbrella movement called the “Rod of Correction.” They target negligence and corruption in government. They hope they can wield this “Rod” with more power together than they can individually. They hope to get more Belizean money out of a cash-strapped government for their various causes. They point out that government ministers are milking the system for money illegally, while their causes deserve the money legally.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow responds that he has met 90% of the unions’ demands. He has given them the three percent annual increase in salary. He has added—though months later than promised—a six percent salary increase on top of that. He has made that increase retroactive to March. He says the government can afford no more Belizean money for them. Belize has a half-billion-dollar 2014-2015 budget, but also a half-billion-dollar “Superbond” debt to foreign creditors. The creditors agreed to restructure the debt with a 41% reduction in the current interest rate. But now they have made that concession, they expect Belizean money to be paid on the debt in a timely manner.
Activist groups also seek Belizean money from the government. Alliances of Maya in the south want funds for more services in their communities. The government instead seeks to develop infrastructure for oil exploration in the south, to boost the whole nation’s strained finances. Every other activist group seeks its own piece of a limited pie, whether of Belizean money or of Belizean land. Who gets it? Often those with the biggest bribe or the best connections or the greatest voting power. The government has admitted it is prone to this kind of influence. PM Barrow has even called the Lands Department a “hotbed of corruption.”
The BGYEA (Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association) is taking a different approach. BGYEA legally acquired access to 1322 acres of unused government land for a housing enterprise called Harmonyville. They held meetings with hundreds of potential residents at a time. Large meetings increase transparency, minimize discrimination and reduce the kind of corruption hidden behind closed-door deals. Also, BGYEA conducted their large meetings on a first-come, first served basis. Everyone qualified would get one acre.
The government refused to build roads to access the land. So BGYEA decided to raise funds to build the roads themselves. They decided to finance it with a corn-planting project using out-of-work youth. They came up with a solution which is also a potential solution to other problems—poverty, housing, youth crime, and unemployment. The church could learn from their example. While the church is already banding together in a newly revamped Evangelical Association, how many solutions are we offering? God certainly has the solutions. We can access them through prayer! And we can put them into practice through united action!
PRAY WITH US: Father God, when we look at Belize from an earthly standpoint we tend to see problems. But from heaven You see solutions. You see them through Jesus, who is the Answer to every problem. And You have given Him all authority in heaven and on earth. We thank You that through Him You have given us access to You and every answer. So we come boldly before Your throne. You see Belize’s poverty, its debt, unemployed youth, drug gangs. You see its disputes over Belizean money and Belizean land. And You are waiting for us to ask for Your solutions.
So root out the corruption which is robbing Belize. Raise up good and faithful stewards who will make the most of this nation’s resources. As they do, release more resources to enrich Belize. Let more land be planted with good seeds that are fruitful and multiply. Release oil and see that its profits are distributed justly. Help us pay our debt and begin to thrive. Lead the church to engage more fully in meeting earthly problems with divine solutions. And do this all to glorify Your name. In the name of Jesus, amen.
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Related sources for Belizean money:
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Superbond makes Belizean money hard to come by