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The Easy Button

Staples' Easy ButtonReports to the Habanero News desk indicate that the Government of Belize is in negotiations with Staples, the U.S. office supply giant, to lease their Easy Button for a minimum of three years, with an option to renew for another five in 2013. Inside sources say that the government feels that much can be achieved once they have the Easy Button in-country.

Crime. This is, for most, a priority issue, and the government appears to ┬árecognize that fact. In an attempt to fight crime, they have introduced Restore Belize, a program drafted after local bureaucrats were introduced to a similar initiative in South America. Paradoxically, Restore Belize has been hailed as a success both by pro-government pundits and by the criminal element. The introduction of a new song, entitled ‘I Am Belize’ has not eased the crime situation and planners admit that stronger measures are required. They are therefore launching Phase Two, in which they will introduce a dance and a poem. This double-barrelled approach is expected to have a much stronger effect and crime numbers should drop radically post-introduction. The Easy Button will therefore be used to choreograph the dance steps and find words that rhyme.

Police Reform. Successive administrations have mishandled, mismanaged and missed every opportunity to develop a strong police force, and so today here we are. The current government senses the public’s displeasure and is working to introduce police reform. The department hopes to use the Easy Button to enable their officers to improve their aim, learn how to drive, and perhaps even detect when an impostor is passing himself off as one of them. However, it is as yet unknown whether the Easy button will be capable of such a tall task as improving the department’s PR image.

Corruption. Many government officials we spoke to conceded that this was the trickiest issue currently on their plate. They admitted that while political leaders insist that corruption was the only method by which they can achieve their goals of growing Belize’s economy one party supporter at a time, the numbers are not proving this out. Officials felt that a happy medium must be achieved whereby ministers can still collect generous bribes but the populace doesn’t have to pay higher taxes in order to finance the expensive vehicles and luxurious lifestyles to which the ministers have become openly accustomed. The Easy Button will, it is to be hoped, enable that solution to be found.

Customs and Lands Departments. Both departments have long been plagued with corruption allegations. At the last House meeting, a 400-page report was tabled which spoke to five months of crazy land transactions at the end of the last government’s term of office. And every so often media reports cover an episode of either Customs corruption or Customs brutality. Both departments therefore have chronic image problems. However, both departments have rejected the Easy Button, on the basis that officials within each department are making bucketloads of money on the corrupt transactions, and can build large houses and buy expensive, late-model vehicles without its help, but thanks all the same.

Poverty. Many area representatives have long argued that the best solution to eradicate poverty is to hand-feed destitute constituents so that they don’t have to waste valuable time going to work or school and can instead spend that time waiting in line at constituency offices for money to pay their light bills in exchange for promised votes. Area reps, when asked about it, state somewhat defensively that they will continue to give our tax dollars to their people, to stimulate their economy. The Easy Button will be used to more accurately identify party supporters so that only they get fed while the others starve.

Budget Reform. In recent years, both political parties have fallen into the habit of borrowing money in order to cover the budget deficit. This is a much more palatable ┬ásolution politically than is the idea of fiscal discipline, which might require politicians, every so often, to tell their party supporters ‘no.’ However, given the global financial crisis and Belize’s own heavy debt burden, sources of international loan funds have become hard to find. The Easy Button will assist the government’s fiscal planners to find new sources of funds to cover the deficit so that politicians can continue to accommodate their party supporters.

Education. Political leaders almost secretly believe that too much education can be dangerous and have therefore agreed that a primary school education is the best that anyone should work to achieve. Leaders have committed to making sure that education will be mostly free up to the end of primary school, but feel that secondary schools must be encouraged to introduce fees and charges and expense items in order to take their education above the reach of most. The Easy Button will be used to develop ideas for new fees.

The opposition, when asked about the intent to use the Easy Button to Restore Belize to…something, stated their unequivocal objection to the idea for two reasons: first, as the opposition, their job is to oppose, and they must carry out that duty zealously and without exception; second, they didn’t think of it first, which is proof positive that it’s a bad idea. However, they did ask whether they could borrow the Easy Button to help them decide who would lead the party.

Despite the opposition’s objections, the plan is going ahead. Officials admit that they are still refining and developing uses for the Easy Button, but that they feel it will make a comprehensive difference to the way they ‘run tings.’ If all works as planned, then by the time elections roll around in 2013 the incumbent government will be able to say “yeah, that was easy.”
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New Tax May Yet Cure City’s Financial Ills

City Council brokeToday the City Council held a press conference to discuss the city’s precarious financial situation and to unveil the latest strategy for addressing it.

Apparently the city is insolvent to the point that the Council can no longer afford the cost of mismanagement. One councilor commented that no matter how they scoured the books, they haven’t been able to find any money to set aside for squandering and wasteful spending. City administrators also reported that property and other taxes have been discounted down to the point that the council now actually owes ┬áseveral property owners and businesses.

In discussing the provision of essential services, city officials advised that while they have not been picking up garbage, fixing streets or enforcing basic laws that allow city residents to peacefully coexist with one another, this inaction was not officially sanctioned. By way of a corrective measure, the non-provision of these and other services will now be made official by way of new legislation which will require all residents to fend for themselves.

The discussion then moved to the Prime Minister’s recent suggestion that councilors take a pay cut. The Mayor spoke to this issue, observing that the Council had been having trouble meeting mayoral salary and expenses, so after much brainstorming it was determined that councilors would indeed take a pay cut in order to allow the city to reserve funds to pay these costs.

Finally, since the other sources of tax revenue are underperforming, the council unveiled a radical new tax measure: the plan to begin taxing residents by road condition. Studies have apparently determined that streets with potholes have less [vehicular] accident injuries than smooth streets, and this information has led the council to implement a ‘safety tax.’ Streets with more and/or deeper potholes will be regarded as safer streets and residents of those streets will pay a proportionately higher tax.

The press conference concluded on a positive note, with city officials assuring members of the media that they will continue to work to solve the city’s problems. As one councilor put it, “we absolutely want this city to return to normal mismanagement and the usual political manipulation; the current situation which precludes such activity is untenable and we pledge to work to resolve the matter as quickly as is humanly possible.”

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