Some Senators Says Haulover Loan Is Shady
Another piece of legislation that inspired fiery debate was a loan motion for a new Haulover Bridge.
The Government intends to borrow 24 million Belize dollars from the Opec Fund.
Now in the house no one got too uptight about it, but, today the Opposition and the Social partners pounced on the motion. They say that Government passed a 60-million-dollar loan motion in 2014 which was supposed to have covered the cost of the bridge. So they questioned why the Government needed to borrow more money now to separately cover the cost of the new bridge.
Here's that back and forth from today's debate:
Mark Lizarraga - Senator, Business Sector
"Now today we are being asked again to say that we are satisfied and that we approve the spending of another US $35.3 million for one bridge after already having approved $60 million and that bridge should have been included there."
Eamon Courtney - Opposition Senator
"Senator Lizarraga directed us, first of all, to the loan motion dated the 2nd of October 2014 for $29.7 million, effectively US $30 million, $60 million Belize. There was no doubt of what the purpose was for- implementing the Philip S. W. Goldson Highway upgrading project including a new bridge at Haulover Creek. Safety improvements climate adaptation works and related consulting services. Amidst a lot of fanfare, Cisco Construction was given a contract valued at $13.5 million for that part of the road, from the airport to the Haulover Bridge - $13.5 million out of the $60. Bankers, tell me how much that left with? $47.5? The Banker says I'm right. $47.5 million left Mr. President. You see how the fool is digesting it? We are looking for some honesty. Then again, 28th of March 2017, this time it's Minister Montero, $20.9 million for that portion, from the bridge to the roundabout at Chetumal Street. Bankers, let us call that $21 - 20.9 out of 47.5 -, $26.5 million are left. One would assume, Mr. President that government was honest when it brought this motion in 2015, had done its due diligence, had had the advice of its engineers, had had advice of the architects- maybe from BIL, I don't know- and had calculated that the amount that they were borrowing from CDB was sufficient. $26.5 million would have covered- what was it?- a bridge, the upgrading of the highway, including a bridge, safety improvements, climate adaptation works and related consultancy services. There is $26.5 million dollars left, Mr. President. And before that is spent the Prime Minister comes to the House with another motion and when time is sought to do the requisite consultation, what are we told? Any fool could raid it in 5 minutes."
Carla Barnett - UDP Senator
"If you look at the portion of the road, for example, Haulover Bridge and the airport junction, you will recall during the construction phase, those of us who drove that road, that that road had to be raised, that the foundation of the road had to be strengthened with all kinds of engineering, paraphernalia that I better stay away from because I don't know what the various names are, but you saw them putting a variety of reinforcement in order to be able to ensure that that road would last the time that it was designed to last. It resulted in that being even more expensive than it was originally contemplated and same will be true of the portion between Belize City and the Bottonwood Bay Boulevard. The reality is that we are building roads in areas that have been traditionally river delta, wet lands, under mangrove, all that implies additional costs. The original estimate for the bridge, the original funds allocated for the bridge did not have designs, at the time the loan was being considered."
Paul Thompson - PUP Senator
"This project from the Bottonwood Bay roundabout to the airport junction, which is 6 miles of road, is costing us $12 million dollars - I just want to put that out there for the Belizean people - $12 million dollars per mile from Bottonwood Bay roundabout to the airport junction; and not even the airport junction, to the Manatee lookout. The question I have, Mr. President, is this: when is this administration going to invest in people? When are we going to hear about a $100 million project for better housing for people? When are we going to hear about a $100 million project for education for those people who can't afford it? When are we going to hear about a $100 million dollar project for better healthcare?"
Mike Peyrefitte - UDP Senator
"It is so amazing it will never cease to amaze me how this government continues to engage in good governance and trying to secure what the people of this country need and every time there is always opposition for opposition sake. There is always grandstanding by those who are holier than thou. Man, Senator Lizarraga, you want to see the height of median, 8-inch thick cement, you want to know...are you an engineer? What would you do with that information if it were given to you? If an engineer were to say, listen we want the median to be 6 inches, not 10, on what bases would you object? On what knowledge? We don't work out those details here, that's why you have a tenure process, that's why you have consultation, that's why we have assessment of projects as we go along. Come on senator. You are bacon man, I am a lawyer, we don't get into those things. We don't know about those things. We are here to debate the fact on a policy standpoint. Do we need that bridge to replaced? Yes man. Isn't it wonderful that we can still get loans like these at concessionary rates? That is to be applauded, I won't tell anyone. At this time, in the last PUP government, all you could get were high private interest rates from private banks. It is to be celebrated that this government can still secure this kind of financing for this very important project."
At the end of the day, the loan motion for that 24 million dollars passed, despite the Senators who disagreed with it.