John Carr is a cowboy from Montana who emigrated to Belize and with his wife runs a cattle ranch and a resort near the City of Belmopan. He shared some of his thoughts on living and doing business here when he spoke at the opening of the National Agriculture and Trade Show. Acting Prime Minister Mr. Gaspar Vega was sitting right next to him. As is his norm, John was frank and not afraid to speak his mind. His address received more applause than any of the politicians and functionaries who also took to the stage to speak. Here are some of his comments.
The beauty and natural attractions of Belize
Belize – there is no place like it in the world. Some say because it is a rather long, narrow slip of land – shaped a lot like Israel – that both countries are very special to God and that His hand is upon them in a very special way. First He created a beautiful shoreline, sprinkled it with Caribbean islands and then put up a very productive and protective barrier reef. Then He created an interior of mountains, flood plains with rolling hills and rivers that was a perfect place for farming and the raising of livestock. Then He implemented perfect varieties of climates from north to south to grow mahogany trees, sugar cane, corn, Citrus, bananas, rice, beans, vegetables, fruits and livestock to name some of the Ag crop products. Imagine a year round climate that passes through 80º everyday of the year and then adds 50 to 150 inches of rain to fit the different cropping areas.
The people of Belize
God started adding people, beginning with the Mayas, British, African American and Spanish. He then mixed in Chinese, Lebanese, Indians, Mennonites and even some North American Gringos and all of that in some only 300,000 plus people. We have to believe that there is much more to the plan, than for us to just sit here and enjoy it. We must set standards, increase science and provide education and productive businesses that other countries and peoples will look on with respect and yes, even envy.
Taxes and the business climate in Belize
It is not meant to be pointed towards the UDP, PUP or any other kind of P (political parties). There is a rule throughout that says “if you want to increase something you subsidize or help pave the way” if you want to decrease something you tax it and regulate it. There are two very American tongue-in-cheek sayings “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you “and the other one is “The cheque is in the mail”. We all know that tax collection is important. It is a privilege to pay taxes as long as everyone pays their fair share. It’s also important to tax payers that they believe the government gets fair value for the tax money spent. When either of the above are not adhered to, investors and their investments suffer. Sometimes the investor sees that his only choice is to lobby his way to achievement.
The Belizean “Mordida”
It takes two to play the game and some investors say “It’s not what you know- It’s who you know” Sometimes a private investor offers someone in government a few dollars or a few tens of thousands of dollars to expedite or make possible a deal. The culprit in this case is really the private sector investor because he is making the offer. There is a difference between a tip and a bribe – if someone like a waitress gives you good service, a tip is very appropriate however , if she is doing the invoice on a large deal and she says she will change the amount owed if you will give her a bribe – in that case the owner of the business looses. Whenever business deals between public and private sector are done that way the nation and honest people lose. I feel so good when I hear about someone that has been arrested for trying to buy an officer and the officer charges the person for trying to institute a bribe. Businessmen, if you want a business friendly government you must be business friendly as well.
Urgent needs in Belize right now
a. Divine guidance and dealing with crime, justice and moral issues.
b. We need to find solutions concerning our long term national debt – no solutions, no long term progress
c. A small farmers canning factory in the Cayo District to process excess fruits and vegetable products.
d. We need to seek more value added products – something like what Marie Sharp has done for Belize.
e. Find a lender to provide longer term credit at reasonable interest for export farmers – maybe 20 or 30 million could be used.
f. Rebuild and improve the road from Belmopan to Cayo.
g. Clean and define the Belize/ Guatemala border (possibly by using prison labour.)