Friday, January 2, 2009

Good-bye to a rocky 2008

The world is relieved that 2008 is gone and breathes a sigh of relief with great expectations for at least some improvements in the standards of living for 2009. Indeed 2008 was a rocky year for most people in Belize and San Pedro is no exception. If it was not rocky, at least it was shaky or shady.

Unemployment has been on the rise as hundreds of Belizeans lose their jobs in the construction, tourism, and transportation industry. Hundreds roam the streets looking for construction jobs but are turned down because the investors have halted on projects. At least three large building companies in San Pedro have had to lay off over two hundred workers because things are too slow. Less jobs mean less money in the pockets of head of families and this means an evident dip in sales at merchandise stores, luxury stores like boutiques and gift shops, rooms and apartments for rent, restaurants, and even hardware stores.

Another big contributor to the shaky year has been the rising cost of gasoline which kept soaring early in 2008 until it reached an almost unprecedented twelve dollars. This affected everyone in the transportation business, electricity and production industries. Taxi fares went up and remain so even with the recent reduction in fuel costs. And those who were driving parked their vehicles for longer periods to make ends meet. Luckily the price of gasoline is going down. The drastic rise in the cost of cement, concrete blocks, sand and gravel, steel and lumber certainly added to the rocky year of builders, investors, and business people.

Coupled with the rise in gasoline and butane gas, there has been sharp raises in staple food items like flour, rice, beans, chicken, fish, corn, milk and many, many others. Oh yes, this has certainly made it rocky for everyone who has responsibility for a household. But to double to the hardships of 2008, the unemployment has also doubled up the occurrences of crimes and theft. In 2008 we have had a rise in house break-ins, assaults, hold ups, and even armed robberies in broad daylight.

But things are surely looking up as the island was full with visitors during the holiday season. We just hope that this is a good sign for the New Year.

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