Let me first start by expressing my gratitude for your gracious invitation. I will say from the outset I am honoured to have been invited, and I look forward to working with Belizean community in Chicago, as we explore and effectuate ways to improve the services that the GOB provides and as we collaborate in the development of our country.
In that vein, I want to underscore that we are currently looking at ways to make the consular services more relevant, by looking at a more accessible location and at the basic human and organizational structures currently existent. The evolution of the consular services in Chicago will need a careful study and strategic collaboration with you the people we serve. Both of these are happening as we speak.
Ladies and gentlemen the Government of Belize hereby accentuates our gratitude for the support, visibility, energy, undying and unflinching patriotism of this community in Chicago. By doing what you do for the motherland, you make Belize better. For that we are eternally grateful.
As your humble servant in D.C., I want to make it my business to know more of what is happening to our Belizean community. Please understand that whether that community is in America’s heartland, or in Los Angeles, or New York, or Miami or where ever Belizeans may be, it is the job of my staff and I to remain in communication with our people. Yes we have a small staff, yes we have budgetary constraints, but if I can catch a red eye flight, stay with a friend, or an aunt, or a Belizean who will have me in their basement, I tell you now I will try my absolute best to reach out to our community.
The government, through our team in New York, has put together a diaspora registration system. I urge you to become a part of this effort. If we do not know who our people are, how can we respond to their needs. As Belizean Americans get better organized, it is imperative that we provide information for ease of collaboration. If you have not, please register now, and encourage any Belizean you meet to get registered.
Finally, I want to leave you with a glass half full scenario. Like you every day I read the news from home. Most of the time these news pieces reflect the glass half empty. Violence, immigration issues, problems on our border, etc. There is no pretty face to the ills and I will not try to paint one for you either.
However, I want to tell you that there is a glass half full when it comes to our country. Let me put it like this. Belize is a land of over 350 thousand people, that’s about half the size of Lake County or about one 13th the size of Cook County. That small amount of people must pay for hundreds of miles of road infrastructure, electricity, hospital services all over the country and on the Cayes, and now because of the irresponsible and aggressive posture of the Guatemalan government spend some 1.4% of GDP on defence. Ladies and gentlemen, that is everything a large and developed country with millions of people, and billions of dollars of a tax base must do. Given those numbers our country and our people accomplish a hell of a lot.
For a small country with a very small population and a tax base commensurate with our size, our evolution has been steady. Our education system is not where we want it to be, but it is a shining star compared to systems in Central America. As Belizeans, we may argue about politics, but those disagreements are in a context of freedom of speech, in many countries talking about politics will land you in jail.
Belizeans born in poverty can and do make it to the middle class, that Belizean dream and upward social mobility is non-existent across the border and indeed in many countries around the world. For a country with the population that is so small, we punch way above our weight. That is a fact.
I say this to you, not so we ignore the bad news, or pretend that the terrible things that appear on social media are all lies, but because I am convinced that there is a glass half full. I say this to you because you need to know that while things are not perfect, and we must work hard to make them better, you can rightly hold you head up high as Belizeans. I say this to you because you are an important part of our development and outreach, I say this to you because it is only by working together that we will make the jewel a better place for all Belizeans,
So once again, thank you for the invite, thank you for what you do for the land of the free, and thank you for never ever giving up on Belize!