DPM Hyde on campaign finance reform: “We have to start somewhere”
This week, we reported on efforts by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry to trigger the introduction of campaign finance reforms. The Chamber is drafting the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2023. Yesterday, the chamber signalled not only its intention to get this bill tabled, but its commitment to work with the government to get this passed. However, it appears that there is a duplication of efforts. Late this evening, Deputy Prime Minister Cordel Hyde said that Government has also been exploring options, speaking to experts on how legislation of this nature should look. Love News also asked him about how does the culture of money in politics materially change to have a meaningful impact on society. Here’s that exchange.
Hon.Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources, Petroleum and Mining: “Listen campaign financing legislation is absolutely necessary. The cost of running an election is absolutely prohibitive, is unconsciounable. When I first ran over twenty five years ago I was working for $400 a week at Amandala and I could have still ran. Had BBQ’s, boil ups and that kind of stuff and run with that. That was 25 years ago you can’t do that now. It’s very very costly now. It’s very very prohibitive and so there has to be some regulation, there has to be something put in place. What that something is I can’t say. I know that the Attorney General’s Ministry has been working on legislation, has been trying to canvas legal experts in the region to help us with that. The truth is campaign finance legislation is not gonna be a panacea, I don’t know that there’s a panacea out there but there has to be one. There has to be some regulation, there has to be some that we have to go at it hard to try to get something in place to try to control and moderate and ensure that elections don’t become the province of the rich, that an ordinary person can aspire, an ordinary person can run, can raise the requisite funds to participate. Right now it’s just prohibitive if you’re a newcomer.”
Reporter: Do you see it happening in this administration ?
Hon.Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources, Petroleum and Mining: “Yes we’re committed to good governance. We’re committed to trying to put in place those kinds of legislation that will ensure that things improve in this country. In fact we just had a meeting with the joint unions a few weeks ago and gave that undertaking again and there’s a number of legislation that we have been working on to ensure that we progress in that area and so I we are gonna go hard at it. That’s a full commitment from the government to ensure we have it. Now what it looks like I can’t say because there has been various pieces of legislation thrown around and I don’t know that there’s a magic formula but we have to get something in place to start regulating this business.”
Reporter: How do we shift the culture though because you’re right a legislation wouldn’t be necessarily a cure all, it has to be a cultural shift. How do we shift that culture ?
Hon.Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources, Petroleum and Mining: “It starts with that kind of signal. It starts with saying listen this cannot continue like this, there has to be some rules to the game, there has to be some controls, some built in controls because at the end of the day the people lose. The people lose. When they take a small money for elections they lose in the long run because the people who provide the financing for elections they win a hundred times, a thousand times more than they invested. So people have to be educated. People have to understand that listen you have to make a sacrifice. We cannot continue how we are going then that’s the point and it starts from our end in the government putting the legislation in place so that people understand there are some new rules now, some regulations and then it’s about educating people so that they understand their greater role and seeing that listen we have to think bigger, we have to think about our children, we have to think about our grandchildren, we can’t just continue this system that we’ve allowed to become bastardized and deformed over a period of time.”