Of the Nat'l Development Discourse

We don't hear much from the Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities.

And that's probably because Sceince and Technology are not considered development priorities in Belize. But the ministry launched its strategic plan today - and they say that has to change.

Minister Joy Grant outlined the statistics which show Belize is at the back of the pack regionally:...

Hon. Joy Grant, Minister of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities
"Belize uses fossil fuels for 65% of its energy needs. The country imported 88% of its fossil fuel needs at a cost $339 million dollars in 2011, this represents 10% of GDP and 11% of total imports. The transport sector uses most of the fossil fuels, so as a matter of urgency we must undertake a comprehensive review of the sector to address the issue of efficiencies."

"Here are a few more statistics: the global competitiveness index report of 2012 ranks Belize as one of the least competitive economies in the world. We are rank 123 of 142 countries. In the region only Haiti has a lower rank. On further analysis we note that our technological readiness Belize is rank 101 for internet users for every 100 people in the population and ranks 136 of 142 countries for foreign direct investment and technology transfer."

"With regard with to information and communication technology in the region Barbados has a 70% ICT penetration for internet. Costa Rica which is closer to Belize in size and topography has 30% penetration, Belize has 10% penetration."

Hon. Joy Grant
"We had to know where Belize where so that we could then do the plan which we are going to launch today."

Jules Vasquez
"You spoke about renewable energy. What are our options that we can realistically pursue for renewable or cheaper forms of locally produce energy?"

Hon. Joy Grant
"We look to the industries we have right now; citrus industry and of course sugar with bagasse - we have been using it. We have the waste material right now for us to use that for fuels. You will know that in some countries they are now using those fuels in their vehicles and there is no reason why we cannot do that. We'll have to make some changes but we are already along the road, we are half way there. Its just now for us to have the incentives for the private sector to come in."

Hon. Joy Grant
"To us understand the urgency is to be proactive. We need a revolution in thought, in words and in deeds."

Jules Vasquez
"How do you move forward when there are so many urgencies?"

Hon. Joy Grant
"I would say for us is near 3; one, of course we need more students to be studying in the stem disciplines; science, technology, engineering and mathematics and have to start now, if not in 3 years I will be talking to you and we would not have made any progress. We have to work on that."

"Two, we have to look at legislation. The legislation right now is quite old and does not reflect where we want to go, so we'll have to look at the legislation and make the changes to make what we want to do for example: at this point we'll like people to come in and do solar energy and wind. The key is for them to be able to sell the excess to the grid because that's how you make these things more than pilot projects but big projects. We don't have that in the legislation, so that's one of the things we'll have to do. It's getting our people to study, changing the legislation and probably looking at the rural areas for connectivity - those will be the 3 things that I know we will concentrate on in the next few months."

The forum is a two day event held under the theme "Belize Tomorrow: the Catalytic Role of Energy Science and Technology." The keynote address this morning was delivered by Caribbean born Dr. Cardinal Warde a professor of engineering at MIT who is also on the Prime Minister's Council of Science Advisors.

You can see the entire strategic plan on the Ministry's website and you can find a link to that at 7newsbelize.com. http://www.belize.gov.bz/public/Data/292616181371.pdf

Channel 7