Belize @ 40: Poverty at 52!
Without doubt, apart from December, September is the most revered month of the Belizean calendar. It is a most festive time where we stop to celebrate our milestones and achievements. We use this time to celebrate where we are and where we came from. And with that in mind, about a week ago the theme for this year’s September celebrations was announced. Social media was in turmoil when members of the public posted denunciations of the theme, as many believe it doesn’t quite reflect the situation on the ground. Now I will let you know that this is a beautiful and hopeful theme, and all the honor and respect is due to the author. But as Belize prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary, we do so at a time when the poverty rate has reached a staggering 52%! So with Belize at 40 and poverty at 52, what exactly are we celebrating?
I am one of those lovers of the month of September! I look forward to it every year with renewed hope and optimism. I participate in the festivities and celebrations and with soul mates – family and friends – I look forward to a renewed and growing Belize. But other than the pandemic, forty years later, frankly, we have very little to celebrate. You cannot celebrate a country at 40 when 52% of its population is impoverished. It’s alarming – scary to the bone. In other words, while we “walk, sing and shout with joy,” 1 in 2 people lack the basic necessities to support themselves and survive.
So what are we celebrating? A mere vain conjecture that spits out empty hope and loathsome promises? What are we celebrating? Forty years of plundering our natural resources and our tax funds? What are we celebrating then? After forty years, a derailed democracy where some are more equal than others and where the 3% continue to ravage and exploit the 97% endlessly? Forty years during which the proletariat has had to adapt and readjust (much like frogs in boiling water) to a point where water has taken up the alveoli spaces of our lungs, rendering us unable to cope with it. to have air?
During these past forty years, we have hopefully and joyfully sang their hymn and marched with glee; but they sucked us up and left to dry. Like a bank eroded by a steady and persistent river, we have been invaded, and as the river consumes the earth, we ourselves have been consumed; and observed before our eyes the constant and constant loss of ground. Land (by its very nature) cannot stop the river from eroding it. But we, on the other hand, for forty years, we have allowed ourselves to be encroached upon and eroded, believing, hoping that one day the waters would recede and yield to us again.
But forty years later, clearly no! We are now pushed to the brink of utter destitution. Fifty-two percent of us are struggling with scarcity. Fifty-two percent of us lack the rudimentary materials and resources required for daily subsistence and survival. Fifty-two percent of us go to bed hungry or wake up in a state of uncertainty and desire. Fifty-two percent – fifty-two percent! This is unfathomable and cannot and should never be a cause for celebration. So when I hear Belize songs at 40, I will choose to deactivate my ears and instead resonate with poverty at 52. This is what will permeate me and should resonate with you – because until we understand the severity of poverty at 52, Belize at 40 will be meaningless.
Belize @ 40: Poverty at 52! Discouragement, despair and destitution – our hymn, our horrible cheers and our empty songs!
Raging thoughts of a liberal pragmatist.