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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Over 70 Million dollars to transform the Coastal Road

Going south usually means taking the George Price Highway to the Capital, Belmopan and then onto the scenic Hummingbird Highway. In addition to a pleasant drive, the view and clean air are added extras to soak in on the way south. This is in stark contrast with the Coastal Road which sits about mile thirty on the George Price Highway as it is s perhaps one of the most dusty highways that drivers have been pleased to avoid in favor of the Hummingbird. But today as part of the road rehabilitation project, a $36,576,000 loan was tabled to rehabilitate from La Democracia village to the Hummingbird Highway at Mile 9. It's a lot of cash for a lot of road and while it had full Government support, the Opposition was not too pleased with the cost.

Leader of the Opposition: Madam Speaker nobody is question whether the paving of the Coastal Road is not a good project and it something that in principle we would support. I certainly question the amount being spent to pave the Coastal Road Madam Speaker. I mean we are getting a $33.4 million Grant from the UK and we are grateful for that and then we are borrowing another $36,576,000.00 US for a total of in Belize dollars $139,952,000.00 to pave 59 kilometers or 36.6 miles of road. If you were to take some kind of comparison of when we were in Government Madam Speaker we spent approximately $100,000,000.00 Belize to pave 5 miles of the Southern Highway and here we are now spending $139,952,000.00 to pave 36.6 miles of road Madam Speaker. If you were to take an average we are in effect spending $3,880,000.00 to pave 1 mile of road on the Coastal Road Madam Speaker and by any metrics you would take that is really a lot of money that we are spending."

Prime MInister Dean Barrow: " When the Leader of the Opposition talks about what engineering and the rebuilding will cost during their time in office. You must remember that was a long, long, long time ago he is talking about but on a serious note Madam Speaker he is asking me questions about enhancement communities in terms of details that I can't answer. You know I am always a fellow who will confess to my lack of knowledge in particular areas. I am no engineer, I am not expert, I am nobody capable of assessing these things. It is like again you are directing the question to the wrong person. What I can tell you is this. This money is coming via the CDB as a vehicle through which the British are making their disbursement. The best of the technical expertise of the CDB and of the British Government. It was them that decided how much this thing is likely to cost. The amount they had for Belize was such that when they were fishined that paving, that rehabilitation of the Philip Goldson Highway I was telling you about from mile 20 right down through Orange Walk and Corozal to the border is also going to come out of the British loan funds."

Millions to pave the Road to Caracol

The interest rate on the Coastal Road would be at 4.8 percent per anmum to be paid quarterly for the rehabilitation of 59 kilometers of road. But that was only one of two major roadworks announced. There was also a US $5,941,000 and US $20 million secured from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. The 5.9 million US is set aside for the Second Road Safety Project and the $20 Million US for 26 miles of the Caracol Road to be transformed from dirt to asphalt. This loan also did not sit well with the Opposition.

Orlando Habet Cayo North East: "Madam Speaker I believe that until we are prosperous to spend this kind of money in the wilderness we should concentrate on prioritizing our spending where we will get better returns. I believe that rural development: that includes the development of village roads, farm roads and other access roads are far more important for national development. I am quite certain that the tourist would be contented with a well maintained all weather road in Caracol thank you."

Leader of the Opposition John Bricenio: " I want to align myself with what the Honorable Member for Cayo North East said over the Caracol Road loan Madam Speaker. I in good faith cannot support this loan of $20 million dollars US paving the road to Caracol and the Honorable member from Cayo North East was right. I don't know if they are trying to confuse us in bringing different loans so we can't keep track of how much we are going to be spending on the Caracol Road because if you look at what has been presented to us right now Madam Speaker they are saying that this amount right now is only covering 64% of this portion of the road so they have to borrow another 36%. That 36% Madam Speaker is another eleven million two hundred and fifty seven thousand US dollars that has to be borrowed yet. There are so many other pressing needs in this country Madam Speaker. Look at our small farmers, we need to be able to assist them Madam Speaker. They can't get access to affordable funding, they can't get access not even to the local markets, there are roads and whenever it rains it is impossible. We need to be working with the productive sector Madam Speaker. According to breaking news I read the article and they are saying that the Government is going to spend ninety million US dollars to pave the Caracol Road. How can we justify this Madam Speaker? Yes we want the tourist to have a nice paved road, yes nobody denies that but we have more pressing needs Madam Speaker."

Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow: "I thought that going to Caracol was a kind of national desideratum if I can use that term. The benefits in terms of Tourism and the member for Cayo North East described it as wilderness. Man that is as I understand it some of the most pristine naturally, beautiful areas you can find in our entire country and what is happening out there or what can happen in terms of tourism. All the lodges that will go there and plus there is a security element to it as well but if they don't agree that doing the road to Caracol isn't in the national interest Madam Speaker then I can't argue with that and I will say only this much more, again in terms of the cost this is what the funding agents they come up with and sure there are other things we would like to do but those people lend you money just for what you want you know. Those people lend you money for what you want that when they think, that what you are asking to borrow for makes sense, that it has to be what they see as a huge priority for our country but if you all don't think it is Madam Speaker I respect your position and sit down."

The loan term is for 20 years. Five years is the grace period plus an additional 15 years to fulfill the loan agreement.


PUP Does Not Support Loans For Highway Mega Projects

Two major infrastructural projects went to the house today.  That's the 36 million US dollar CDB loan for the Coastal Highway project and the 20 million US dollar loan for phase 2 of the Caracol Road project.  The Opposition Leader said it's too much money to spend on roads when there are so many other needs:

Hon. John Briceno - Leader of the Opposition
"They are saying that this amount right now is just covering 64% of this portion of the road. So they have to borrow another 36%, that 36% Madam Speaker is another 11,250,000 US dollars that has to be borrowed yet. There are so many other pressing needs in this country Madam Speaker. Look at our small farmers, we need to be able to assist them Madam Speaker. They can't get access to affordable funding, they can't get access to not even the local markets, their roads whenever it rains it's impossible - we need to be working with the productive sector Madam Speaker. Yes we want the tourist to have a nice paved road - yes nobody denies that but we have more pressing needs Madam Speaker. Look in San Pedro, San Pedro don't have a hospital. How many budgets they promised a hospital in San Pedro? Every year they promise that they are going to build the hospital."

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister
"I really am speechless. I thought that going to Caracol was a kind of national desiderato if I can use that term. The benefits in terms of tourism and the member for Cayo North East described it as wilderness. Man as I understand it, some of the most prestine nationaly beautiful areas you can find in our entire country and what is happening out there - or what can happen in terms of tourism, the lodges that we will put, plus there is a security element to it as well. But if they don't agree that doing the road to Caracol is in the national interest, Madam Speaker I can't argue with them."

And the exchange was very much he same for the debate on he Coastal Highway loan:…

Hon. John Briceno
"We are not questioning whether paving the Coastal Road cannot be a good project but what we're questioning Madam Speaker - certainly I am questioning, do we need to spend 139,952,000 dollars to pave 33.6 miles of road?"

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow
"Look you're talking about the best of the technical expertise of the CDB and of the British government. Da deh decided how much this thing is likely to cost."

Both those loan motions were passed today.  Government also pushed through legislation to adjust the offshore baking regulations to meet European Union regulatory requirements. You'll hear about that later in he news.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline

Today, the Senate met in Belmopan to discuss and debate a pair of megabucks infrastructure projects.  That's the Coastal Road loan and he Caracol road loan. Combined, the projects will cost close. To two hundred million dollars - and the reviews were mixed.  Here, first, is the debate on the Coastal Road:

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"I will say that we support this project in principle. We believe that it is a good investment to have that road upgraded and paved."

Hon. Paul Thompson - Business Senator
"Why couldn't we invest these millions in job creation? What about Belizeans who need a home? What about education? Will the dropout rate decrease? Mr. President investing 125 million dollars on roads wil not give us new homes or new jobs and Mr. President the need for peace in our country. You UDPs have found a winning formula and it's a 6 step approach, 6 steps to this plan. You set an election date, you find a road to build, you procure an outrageous loan like the ones here, you select a crony contractor, you get monies from that crony contractor and now you have millions of dollars to buy our people in elections."

Hon. Aldo Salazar - UDP Senator
"Senator Thompson has said investing infrastructure does not alleviate poverty, that's what I understood him to be saying. Given the poverty situation, I would like to read if you would allow me from a recent ILO paper speaking about infrastructure development in Indonesia. It says, investing in infrastructure creates income opportunities and generates jobs, directly as employment can be created during the construction and maintenance of infrastructure by using labour based methods and increased use of local resources - labour and materials in addition will backward and forward linkages; further stimulating the local economy. Indirectly as the assets by themselves will be improve access to income and employment opportunities."

Hon. Godwin Hulse - Leader of Government Business
"This road will save users, especially commercial users 48 miles of travel on the return and if you're running any of those big container trucks like my boys, they burn 4 miles to the gallon, so you're saying 12 gallons every time and so when you hauling oranges and you hauling other stuff. So from just a commercial perspective getting down to Big Creek Port and hopefully soon to be resuscitated the Commerce Bight Port, is a tremendous project"

Sparks Fly On Caracol Highway

And, similarly, the reviews were mixed for the loan for the road to Caracol - well above 100 million which will cut the first major highway through the Chiquibul forest:..

Hon. Osmany Salas - NGO Senator
"I do agree and I do support that the road to Caracol needs to be upgraded. It is a very important corridor for a number of reasons as leader of government business has indicated a couple of them but I want to reiterate the tourism element - it's highly used, a lot of traffic on that road, so that's one. But also the national security implications of well upgraded, well maintained road that goes deep into our western forest. It's extremely important that we can get in there easily, quickly back and forth."

Hon. Elena Smith - Labour Senator
"In terms of infrastructure and from our standpoint, it seems as if though infrastructure is the priority of this government. We're not saying something is wrong with that but we're saying that there is also other priorities we should be looking at and I think we want to look carefully at how much we are taking on in terms of debt as a country and how much having the debt that we have at this point in time is going to affect our people and our people's livelihood - because that is quite key. The burden is going to be placed on a small group of person to be able to deal with these matters."

Hon. Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
"Mr. President, this is 180 million dollar project, that's what it's going to end up more or less at the end of this thing and yes there are communities along the road that fully deserve to have paved roads. We're not arguing about that whatsoever; but those communities do not extend all the way through the mountain pine ridge and to Caracol. So you could have paved right up to the junction, come back mile 6, come back to Georgeville - all those little villages there deserve it, they're farmers, they need to have access. How did we arrive at justifying the road from mile 8 to the airport, these are valid questions, valid questions in the context of a growing debt that sister Elena is talking about."

Hon. Valerie Woods - PUP Senator
"Is it the lack of an asphalt road 50 miles long that is preventing investment in that area? We don't know because we don't have the feasibility study before us - and then is it that we build it and they shall come? Is it the field of dreams approach when it comes to tourism here? When you look at the numbers going to Caracol, it is nothing in comparison going to several of the other areas. Is it that we want it to be more? Have we determined that - that area we want to turn into that type of destination?"

Hon. Steve Duncan - UDP Senator
"Also creating new avenues where the public can spread its wings and become creative and innovative in getting new things done in the country and to my mind, the Caracol Road is one such area. If we feel that it is such a beautiful area which I think it is, as you put a road like this in there, I am sure that there will be people, Belizeans who will see opportunities there to go and do things that maybe we don't have today."

Both loan motions were approved - and have gone through all their stages.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline
Caracol Road should be scaled down
Editorial in Amandala

If we judged the financial health of Belize by the streets in the cities and towns that tourists are encouraged to walk on, and the places that they are encouraged to visit, we would say that our country belongs in the category occupied by the well-off and rich.

Albert Street and Seashore Drive in Belize City, and Burns Avenue in San Ignacio Town, are scenic and in spots prosperous. San Pedro, Placencia, and the Island Resorts, are places only the wealthy, or people who were born there, can afford. A lot of regular folk live in Caye Caulker and Hopkins, but these are places where the property values are beyond the pockets of most Belizeans.

If we judged our country's financial health by the projects in the budget just presented in the House of Representatives, we would say that we are living in a country that has no need for investments in agriculture, manufacturing, health, housing and technology. We would say that our agriculture and manufacturing and other important sectors are running at near top capacity, and so we have to search for projects in which to invest.

You really have to have money to burn, to invest nearly two hundred million dollars in a road into the wilderness. In the old days, when we depended on our forests for our construction needs and for export earnings, we opened dirt roads to pull out logs. This Caracol Road is not intended to serve such a purpose. If any trees are cut down and the logs hauled out, the loggers will be hauled off to court to be punished to the full extent of the law, for injuring the breathtaking scenery.

The Caracol Road is not intended to serve the agriculture sector. The Caracol Road, for the most part, passes through pine ridge forest, and these are the worst lands for agricultural purposes. There are a few villages at the north end of the road, but they don't need a first world highway to Caracol to get out their produce. They would prefer less investment in the Caracol Road, and that some of the funds earmarked for that project be diverted to improve the roads that lead to their farms.

The Prime Minister winded up the budget debate last week with the revelation that the country's main opposition, the PUP, had commissioned studies for designs for the Caracol Road and the Coastal Road. The PUP's interest in the Caracol Road does not justify the UDP government spending 180 million dollars to make what the PUP dreamed become reality. A bad decision is a bad decision and a good decision is a good decision, whether the PUP or the UDP hatched it.

The decision to rehabilitate the Caracol Road is not bad. What is bad is the cost, the extraordinarily high cost. The British colonizers are accused of being nearsighted because they built one-lane roads and one-lane bridges. They are accused of not planning for the future. The British could have done better, but they are not without some saving grace. The roads and bridges they built were well-constructed, and if they were not futuristic, well, two-lane roads and two-lane bridges will one day be considered´┐Żinsufficient.

You don't need training in engineering to know that after years of weathering and traffic, the foundation of the Caracol Road is sound, well compacted. You don't need to be trained in meteorology to know that climate change is exponentially less a concern in hill country. As climate change goes, the Caracol Road is very low risk, the Coastal Road is a risk only in spots, and the Corozal to Sarteneja Road, which is also up for rehabilitation, is high risk throughout.

It can't be too late to rewind the Caracol Road project. The House of Representatives should debate scrapping the climate change component of this road, and they should consider the merits of constructing a one-lane road at this time. The Caracol Road doesn't need two paved lanes. The greater part of the traffic goes IN, in the morning, and goes OUT, in the afternoon, so half of the road is wasted half of the day. A paved single lane will serve adequately if the right of way goes to the in-going folk in the morning, and the right of way goes to the OUT-going folk in the afternoon.

The expenditure on the Caracol Road should be 50 million dollars, not 180 million. Fifty years from now, when we are a prosperous country, a single-lane Caracol Road might still be sufficient. There will be no villages springing up alongside most of this road because the land it passes through is not good for agriculture. There'll be no cutting of logs, for that would ruin the beauty of the forest. Fifty years from now there will still be minimal traffic going out with products for the market, in the morning.

For reasons that are difficult to comprehend, our present government appears to not know how Belizeans are making it at this time. The small farmers, many big farmers, the bus operators who are not in the tourism business, the small tour operators, are among the many in Belize who can't be happy with this superhighway to Caracol.

What is clear in Belize is that there are a lot of people who are scrambling to survive. The crime in the country says a lot. The week's news cycle is dominated by robberies in every corner.

Our government, it seems, thinks that we have so little need in our country that we can make a huge investment in this road. It is ill-conceived at the price, and so it should be scaled down. The people of Belize - the farmers, small tour operators, the students, those in ill-health - would benefit more if $100 million of this Caracol Road project was invested elsewhere. The people will have to pay back the loan, so they must derive the most benefit from it.

It is not impossible that loans for road construction are the only kinds we can access at this time. (Lenders have their reasons why they will entertain only certain types of loans). It is the case that we are strapped for cash, so the government has some justification for borrowing for the Caracol Road project. Most of the investment will go to import materials, but there will be jobs for Belizeans and profits for a few.

Accepting that we are not in the best economic state at this time, we don't rail at our government when it grabs for all it can borrow out there. However, we have to tap them on the shoulder when they are not being prudent. This Caracol Road project needs to be scaled down, to something more within our budget, something more practical.

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