On Tuesday night, we aired New Year’s messages from Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Leader of the Opposition, Francis Fonseca. Both leaders spoke of positive strides and looked to a successful future for the country. According to P.M. Barrow, the economy grew in the first three-quarters by four point two percent exceeding the forecast of the IMF. This, Barrow says, was primarily due to the tourism industry. The prime minister went on to speak of several social and financial programs including the BOOST and food pantry initiatives, and mortgage payments to Belizeans, as well as improved healthcare across the country. But with the support of the millions of dollars available from the PetroCaribe initiative, the PM went on to make numerous promises that will see G.O.B. tap into millions more for 2015. The education sector would see nine thousand tablets for tertiary level students, free wi-fi, as well as three years of salary increases for teachers.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“We have already revealed plans to build, with the help of the Koreans, a Technology University in Belmopan. We intend to finalize this concept and begin its implementation in the New Year. But even as this big picture project is taking shape, there are lots of smaller things Government will also be doing to help our people overcome the digital divide. There are lots of smaller things government will also be doing to help our people overcome the digital divide. So if 2014 was a year of infrastructure, 2015 will be a year of technology. Thus, Government is purchasing from the Asus Company in Taiwan nine thousand tablet computers so as to be able to provide one for each Tertiary level student in Belize. As a result, every student at UB and all Sixth Forms and Junior Colleges countrywide, will be gifted one of these brand new Tablets as we prepare to march into technology’s brave new world. High Schools will also benefit, as at their level we will be making donations for the improvement of their computer labs. Again, it is every one of the forty four or so Government and Government-aided High Schools throughout the nation that will be covered by this initiative. And they will be able to use this Government funding for either the purchase of additional equipment or for help with the physical rehabilitation of premises. Finally, Government will provide free Wifi in the Park for each of our country’s Municipalities. So we will select one Park or other public space in all District Towns and in Belmopan City, and for a specified number of hours each day citizens will enjoy complimentary bandwidth internet from the Government of Belize. Belize City is pioneering its own program under its partnership with B.T.L.”

But the PM also said that millions more will be invested in infrastructural developments across the country. Now the works of some contractors have been rather shoddy because within months, there have been cracks in the cemented streets and portions along the highways are already sinking. Aside from the construction of a cruise port for Belize City, PM Barrow spoke of investing fifteen million dollars into three tourism road projects.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I should perhaps better say that it will be the year of both technology and infrastructure. Because our infrastructure drive won’t stop, and indeed will increase. Petrocaribe funding will now shift its focus to rural constituencies, after having initially concentrated on Cities and Towns. And the already unprecedented local spending coming from that source, will be augmented by the foreign-financed projects such as the redoing of the Hummingbird Highway; the resurfacing of the George Price Highway from the Belmopan cut-off to Benque Viejo del Carmen; the new Roundabouts and Rehabilitated Ringroad in the Nation’s Capital; the paving of the Southern Highway between Jalacte and the Border with Guatemala; the new Macal River Bypass; and the widening and resealing of the Philip Goldson Highway between its junction with the International Airport and Belize City. I earlier cited the tourism sector’s powerful statistics, and in that connection I make the following announcements. Government will spend around fifteen million dollars in 2015 on three tourism road projects. We will do the additional seven miles to complete the paving of the old Northern Highway to Altun Ha; we will build another four miles beyond the bridge in San Pedro to further open up North Ambergris; and we will fully resurface the 8 miles of the Jaguar Paw Access Road. Then, one way or another, we will green light a new Belize District Cruise Port with alongside docking facilities.”

Channel 5