From Left-wing populism to authoritarianism

Venezuela’s path to undoing its democracy amidst ‘Petro-Muzzled’ region

Traditionally, whenever the topic of Venezuela is discussed or written about, the stories are almost always framed as the Davidesque struggle of a Leftist regime against the Goliathan evils of the economic Right. Essentially, such characterisations are not necessarily invalid, because Venezuela’s government remains committed to its socialist principles, while resisting the tenets of its more conservative counterpart.

However, since the days of Chavez to the present times of his hand-picked successor President Nicolas Maduro, the issue is becoming less about capitalism challenging socialism and more about authoritarianism supplanting democracy–the ostensibly natural outcome of populism.  Continue reading

CARICOM to U.S. Courts: You’re putting the C.C.J’s legitimacy at risk!

  • Decisions that snub CCJ opinions undermine its legitimacy and impede aspirations for independence and regional cohesion.
  • Allowing CCJ opinions to be circumvented has the deleterious effect of weakening the value of the CCJ as an institution.
  • “Further efforts to utilise the CCJ in strengthening the governance of its Member States and to expand the CCJ’s final appellate jurisdiction will be hindered if import decisions by the CCJ that go directly to the rule of law and support essential tenets of democracy are summarily disregarded by courts of other jurisdictions in the international community.”—CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRoque.

Should the United States’ Courts be able to override decisions made by the highest appellate Court in the Caribbean region, The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)? That’s the question that has been brought, once again, to the fore, of late, in large part due to the latest developments in the Belize government’s case against entities such as BCB Holdings Limited, Belize Social Development Limited, and NEWCO. Continue reading

Restructure bond, restructure economy

Fundamentally, the Belize US-Dollar Bond 2038 (super bond) needs to be restructured based on several factors. Probably none more clear-cut than the simple reality that global and regional growth are not expected to be as robust as one may hope. But the bond restructuring is only but one part of a much more comprehensive “restructuring” that we need to look at, but we are yet to adequately address the underlining causes as to what brought us to this point.

The origins of the Super Bond could somewhat be well summarised as being a mix of expansionary fiscal policies that rapidly increased the average government deficit from 3% to 9% of GDP within a span of about six year; climbing public debt, much of which was sourced from external sources who, on account of our declining credit ratings, kept increasing the costs at which we borrowed; and widening current account deficits.

As was pointed out in the working paper  “Sovereign Debt Restructurings in Belize: Achievements and Challenges Ahead” by Asonuma et. al (2014):

“At the same time, Belize’s external condition became more challenging owing in part to
high world oil prices, declining export prices, and rising external debt service costs.
Trade imbalances, coupled with surging debt service burden, led to significant current
account deficits, which averaged 17.3 percent of GDP during the period 2001 through 2005.
The large current account deficits were principally financed through a build-up of external public debt, which almost tripled from less than US$400 million in 1998 to US$1.1 billion in 2005.”

Without venturing into any in-depth analysis of the period between 1998 and the first restructuring in 2007, ideally, one key lesson here is the need for our government and people to take care on how we spend and increase our expenditures. That much, one could say, is within our control. And, it’s prudent to do so because we all know that there are factors such as global commodity prices, natural disasters, and even changes in the global and regional economy that are outside our control, to name a few.

A look at the Global and Regional Landscape

Speaking of factors outside of our control, this conversation would be incomplete without at least a brief look at developments in the global and regional economy.

In terms of the entire Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, average growth for 2016 and 2017 has been forecast at -0.6% and a meagre 1.6% growth for 2016 and 2017, respectively. The expectation is that the weakened global demand and trade that led to the negative outlook for 2016 would have tapered off by 2017. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), speaking on this point in its October 2016 Regional Economic Outlook Update, elucidated, “Growth is expected to rebound to 1.6 percent in 2017 (0.1 percentage point higher than in the April projections), as global demand gradually picks up and domestic policy uncertainty declines. Medium-term projections continue to be subdued, with the region expected to grow a mere 2.7 percent.” Continue reading

Who Dropped the Ball with NCL?

“I think the tourism representatives may be able to speak directly to that issue. From the very onset of those negotiations, it was clear that the NCL ships will be sent down south that would create some opportunity for the southern region of Belize.As you know that is the most impoverish in terms of opportunities. And so, I am not sure what negotiations FECTAB had, if any, with NCL in terms of being facilitators of tours here in the Belize District. I know that there are a number of tour operators and tour guides in the south who have prepared themselves to benefit from the NCL project in that area. But I don’t have the finer details and I think the tourism representatives can add some more value to that discussion.”–Minister of State Tracy Panton

Based on the level of data made public, I could certainly appreciate why FECTAB members would be alarmed at the “recent” developments as it pertains to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)’s Harvest Caye project and the potentially negative impacts it could have on FECTAB members’ revenues.

Nevertheless, this, in my opinion, is what happens when there are a couple of things absent from the public sphere: (a) a large news consumer base that incentivizes the media to keep these types of issues in the fore, (b) limited appreciation of the truly competitive and fluid nature of business, and (c) requisite communication (including listening) skills, preparation and negotiating skills from some key public and private-sector stakeholders.

Why do I say this? Because, I could think back to 2013 when I was still in the media and this issue came up regarding NCL and whether or NOT it would divert ships down south to Harvest Caye. I’m glad that 7News went back to archive footage this week. Because from at least three years ago, one needed to “listen carefully” to what was actually being said.

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Westminster’s Systemic Catch 22: an executive of ‘GOATS’ vs. Politicians

“For many, ‘representation’ is synonymous with political reward, or patronage. Ministerial posts are also now used as a means of ensuring loyalty, or at least acceptance of the government approach. Prime Ministers wish to appoint those who are loyal: both to the party and to his or her own position as party leader.”–(Young and Hazel, 2011).

In my childhood years I could only recall a maximum of four times when my mother felt it was necessary reprimand me in true Belizean style. One of those times occurred when I was about eight years old, and I decided to jokingly throw politically charged obloquies at our neighbour whose relation to a highly ranked area representative made him a “politically exposed” person (if I may use that term loosely).  Continue reading

The economic outlook and pay raise?

Avoiding any of the politics and emotive elements of this particular issue, in many ways I have to endorse what the Public Service Union and the Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) have decided to do: that is, defer their pay raise/adjustment given the distressed state of the Belizean economy.
 
Currently, the entire global outlook is less than optimal. One could pick from any reputable source for macroeconomic forecast and the story remains the same: the outlook for Caribbean economies “remains fragile”.
 
For example, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2016 Regional Economic Outlook (Western Hemisphere) put it this way: “With the global economy still struggling, many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are facing a harsher world than they did just a few years ago.” (See IMF report here)
 

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Keeping Hope Alive: Can Belize’s Q3, Q4 growth figures pull us up?

Okay, so there is certainly a lot going on in the Belizean political scene of late. Everything from the Audit Report to the Section 53 ruling to the Mason saga have been dominating the news cycle and public discourse for the last few weeks. However, one line of conversation has quietly slipped into the background: the Belizean economy.

Earlier this year the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had indicated that 2016 would have seen subdued GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth at about 0.5%; however, it’s likely that even their estimate could prove to be a bit more on the optimistic side of things.  Continue reading