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The Ministerial Gods

The Ministerial Gods
January 26
09:05 2019

By Neri Briceno

The modern post-presidential pension scheme in place for US Presidents who are no longer in office can probably be attributed to one president – Harry S. Truman. After leaving office, Truman was virtually broke except for his military pension and literally struggled financially. Upon leaving office, Truman turned down several lucrative offers for commercial endorsement and positions on corporate boards because he believed that it would diminish the integrity of the nation’s highest office. Many Americans thought that this was not befitting for a former president and that he needed some type of pension scheme and hence one was created. Truman is famously known for saying that ‘you can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.’

In modern 2019, leaders like this have mostly become a thing of the past. Elected offices, and especially those in Belize, have generally become a medium for one to enrich themselves and their families through a variety of means including – bloated contracts, high paying jobs, taxpayer-funded educational opportunities and in some cases a family member becoming the face of the elected official. I am sure most Belizeans can remember that infamous politician whose son was his gatekeeper and was more the de facto Area Representative. He eventually lost, by the way. What people have failed to see in today’s democracy is that every politician on both sides of the aisle is probably a multimillionaire, yet people still think that they are there to serve the people.

The recent revelation that a Foreign Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was earning what seems to Belizeans to be an exorbitant salary, while at the same time seeking to go on study leave with benefits, has Belizeans holding their heads. The fact that her father is the Minister of Foreign Affairs has everyone wondering just what is going on with taxpayers’ monies. I will start off by being the first to say this – Belize should have no problem paying top dollar for talent because that is the only way we will retain good people and avoid brain drain. However, the issue is different when there seems to be a high level of nepotism involved and that is the sole reason why the person enjoys the benefits that they do. We should not be surprised about this because this is something that has been going on for donkey’s years, in both political parties. In some cases, close family members, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, friends, allies and die-hard supporters of the party have all been educated both locally and abroad by taxpayers’ monies, and sometimes they would not necessarily be the smartest or the best candidate for this opportunity.

If the number are correct, as reported for Paulette Elrington, daughter for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, then we would be looking at a yearly salary and benefits of almost $200,000.

Are the services that Paulette Elrington providing to the nation of Belize valued this much? Are we getting value for dollars? And is Belize in a better position on the international stage because of the talent and education she has, and most importantly would she have gotten this opportunity and be paid this much if she was not the daughter of the Foreign Minister? Have the PUP done similarly? Without a shadow of a doubt and unquestionably yes. The last thing I want anyone to believe is that this is some type of personal attack on Miss Elrington because I am sure that she is a great person and the few times I have met her in the past she was nothing but wonderful. However, what this is, is an attack on the system that we have created because it does not lend itself for strong and robust national-building and the idea of equal opportunity to all. Before casting any stones, ask yourself what you would have done if you were presented with the same offer and if you had the same connections as the Foreign Officer. In case you have not realized it, Belize has rapidly become a nation of the haves and the have-nots. There is a small mass of people on both side of the aisle that continue to accumulate a tremendous amount of wealth and power, which is a very dangerous thing in any growing democracy.

Paulette’s case is one that has been repeated so many times that it has probably become the norm. Expect this to continue if and when another party comes into government. Is what she is getting too much? You be the judge because the numbers are there and it’s your money. One thing I can conclude from this and that is that I want to join the Belizean Foreign Service. Now imagine if this is what she is making, then just image what Lois Young and Daniel Gutierrez are making. I want Lois and Daniel’s jobs!!!

It’s all about the people!!!!

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