The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan

Posted By: Marty

The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/01/10 10:19 PM

The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan for Belize

Since the days of Colonialism Belize has been mired in an inability to prosper sufficiently to advance the standard of living of the population as a whole. Some of the population have prospered but the majority of the population is locked in a cycle of agrarian poverty and village sustenance economics. Wide spread poverty exists in all three forms, food poverty, capabilities poverty and asset poverty. The family farm or shop usually but not always makes just enough to survive but never enough to really move forward. There are few jobs that require a higher level of education hence there is no incentive for parents to require their children to complete basic high school education much less continue into the university system. Additionally many of our agricultural sectors are not competitive on the world market. What agricultural products we do produce are difficult to market because of lack of processing facilities and lack of access to international markets by our small producers. Coupled with difficult road conditions and expensive fuel the typical rural Belizean has no hope of selling more than a few heads of cabbage to our local market if weather conditions permit. It is well known there are many niche crops that could be grown in Belize however the obstacles in developing these industries are very difficult to overcome for any individual.

The most successful colonies expanded their economies by way of industrialization and massive infrastructure projects. Belize has always been and is being exploited for its natural resources by both foreigners and Belizeans alike. We have never developed the means to locally process our natural resources and hence add value and by successful marketing, expand our economy.

Indeed there are many problems associated with establishing viable manufacturing and processing industries in Belize. Lack of raw materials, high cost of electricity, high cost of fuel, lack of trained work force, lack of a developed market, and an inadequate transportation system are some of the major challenges we face in the task of bringing our nation out of the poverty that currently grips much of the population and government. To some degree we must industrialized to survive. We simply don't have enough tax base to provide basic community services to the citizens of our nation. We cannot reasonably expect to raise revenue by raising taxes on an overstressed economy with ingrained poverty at the levels we have.

Our tourism industry which has become a cornerstone of the economy is in the doldrums as well. We are drifting along on a very turbulent sea with no apparent direction. Authorities are caught in the battle between commercial exploitation and sustainable ecotourism and are too easily swayed by the fast buck, catch and kill, mentality that haunts us and they seem unable to progress in either direction for long at a time. Add to that the fact that we have some 240 miles of coastline that is virtually not developable because it cannot be accessed by road.

Immediately to the north Quintana Roo successfully attracts 5 million visitors annually. Although we would like to attract some of these visitors to Belize we have never formulated a plan that would achieve that result. Our transportation system and infrastructure is so inadequate that a trip to Belize from Mexico becomes more of an adventure than a vacation and very few find their way from Mexico to see the wonders of Belize. Except for the International Airport, Belize is effectively isolated from the rest of the world and its opportunities with little chance of change.

Immediately to the South of Belize lies the most affluent populations and productive agricultural ares of Guatemala including Rio Dulce and Puerto Barrios and is a short drive to Guatemala City. Even though we have many visitors from Guatemala the transportation infrastructure connecting our two countries is virtually non existent and serves as the lynch pin of the ongoing territorial dispute

Our plan is a logical extension of what history has taught us. We propose to move Belize forward by massive infrastructure projects coupled with planned industrial expansion and tourism development. This is a course that has proven successful in other colonies and should work for us as well.The spine of our program will be an International Super Highway connecting the rich farmlands and affluent populations of Guatemala with the markets of CanCun and an International Highway and Airport on North Ambergris Caye connecting the Mexican Riviera to Ambergris Caye and San Pedro Town and a Western Super Highway extending to the Western border.

From the Tourism stand point, the mainland International highway will allow all of Central America to benefit from the International Airport in Cancun and all its connections to the European markets. Those who wish to study Maya history and ancient cultures will find it much easier than ever before by coming through Belize. Our International Highway will be similar to an interstate highway in the US reaching from our border with Mexico at Santa Elena to the Sarstoon at the Guatemala border tying into the Guatemala road system.The effects of this massive infrastructure project are far reaching and will forever change Belize from an out of the way difficult to reach destination to the gateway to Central America. It will also forever change the face and migration patterns of the populations of Central America.

This map is conceptual and not necessarily the exact route


These super highway will be toll roads and will be constructed a mile or less from the shoreline more or less paralleling the coast with some deviations dictated by conditions. The Western Super Highway will approximate the path of the existing Western Highway.

This will immediately provide jobs and increased economic activity needed to jump start our economy. The implications for jump starting our economy should be obvious to all and a plan can be devised that will assure the broadest impact on our unemployment rate providing jobs for many as well as inject money into our national and local economies.

The strategic positioning of the International Highway will allow the coast of Belize which up till now has been largely inaccessible to be developed. Until now most land developed for tourism has been concentrated on the Cayes,. This will both take environmental pressure off the Cayes and provide a multitude of opportunities for developments on the mainland.

This plan will also include a new International Airport along with the formation of a new community to be constructed in the Basil Jones area of North Ambergris Caye The infrastructure package will include a 4 lane highway from the Mexican border at Bacalar Chico south ending at San Pedro Town. This road will tie together the Mexican Riviera, the new airport and community in the Basil Jones area of North Ambergris Caye and San Pedro Town which will become the gateway to the Cayes. An agreement with Mexico has already been signed expressing agreement to build this road.

As guests will no longer have the expensive shuttle flight from P.S. Goldson it should lower the cost of visiting the Cayes thus boosting tourism and revitalizing the construction industry of Ambergris Caye. San Pedro Town has long been the source of much revenue for the GOB. Wages earned in San Pedro are sent to every village in the country and it is in the best interest of all to enhance the infrastructure of our single largest producer of income, both for the government and the population. It will pay dividends to us all.

After crossing below Shipstern Lagoon the International Highway will pick up the coast more or less where a new community will spring up providing service to the new developments on North Ambergris Caye as well adventure tours and archeological tours of the Sarteneja Reserve. As the highway proceeds south the entire north coast will for the first time become accessible for potential developments.

The highway will jog around Belize City and rejoin the coast for its run to the Guatemala border opening opportunities as it goes. It will ease transportation problems for the citrus and banana industries providing all weather access to the port at Big Creek. Tourism will undoubtedly spring up along the South coast as the coast becomes accessible for development. Punta Gorda will grow into a thriving city being the first town along the highway coming from Guatemala.

If you draw a straight line from CanCun to heartland of Central America you will see that a road across Belize is the logical path and most direct path. The 5,000,0000 annual visitors arriving in Cancun will become part of our market. As we complete the International Highway we will immediately become the Gateway to Central America going south and the Gateway to Mexico going north. Now the commercial and tourist traffic enters Guatemala from Mexico and Mexico from Central America through Chiapas and it is a notoriously bad crossing. Belize will be able to compete from a position of strength for a share of that market.

As the International Highway bends around Belize City it will intersect with a sister super highway ending at the Guatemala border on the Western Frontier. This new Western Super Highway will make transportation of passengers, goods and materials from the Cayo District much safer and practical in all weather and provide a better link to our neighbor. Too many have lost their lives on the Western Highway and the human cost alone makes this part of the project worthwhile. This will enhance accessibility to the capitol in Belmopan as well as allow for the ever growing tourism industry in the Cayo District to continue to expand in a safer fashion. As this district also produces much of our local agricultural goods the increased accessibility of the farmers and other producers to an efficient transportation system will benefit us all.

Achieving a reasonable price of dependable electrical power for industrial development will be addressed by installing wind farms in suitable areas. The modern systems produce anywhere from 1 megawatt to 2.6 megawatts of power. One small wind farm could power the whole country which needs less than 70 megawatts. It would also allow for growth and industrial expansion. If we choose we can expand capacity to become a net exporter of electricity rather than being dependent on foreign power as we currently are.

As the development of these highways progress we will develop industrial zones at appropriate locations adjacent to the highways. These zones will operate much as our current EPZís but will provide small farmers and manufacturers with cooperative processing and marketing facilities enabling them to add value to their products and be able to access markets via the International Highway.

As the new highway system opens there will be a reasonable way to import raw materials and export finished products or agricultural goods. As the wind farms come online electrical power costs should drop. These factors will all work together to make industrial development possible in Belize. As we attract factories by giving away land in the new Industrial zones we will also attract more highly educated professionals to operate these new facilities. This will speed our transfer of technology and encourage our youths to seek higher education to fill these newly created positions and our educational system will start to develop according to the needs placed upon it. As we all know the current brain drain retards our national capacities and retards the development of our society as the cream of the crop often stay abroad after going to university as there are no jobs suitable for their educational level in Belize.

In order for this level of development to succeed we must truly expand our consciousness concerning our attitudes toward our environment. The DOE must be expanded and be allowed to operate without any political interference whatsoever. The undertaking of this level of development will raise many environmental issues. All must be resoled in the favor of sustainable development with a bias towards environmental conservatism. It has been said that a fool learns from his own mistakes while a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. We wish to be environmentally wise. Recent surveys have shown that travelers are willing to spend more on green destinations that conventional tourist destinations. As a nation we should embrace ecotourism to the fullest, complete with all itís environmental responsibilities and try to develop policies and habits that can be admired worldwide. We only need the political will to do so.

Our nation has a current population of around 325,000. Of that number 45% are under the age of 18. These are our children and we have an obligation to provide them with jobs and a chance to have meaningful productive lives. This development program will provide jobs immediately and long term. It is but a framework from which we will build addressing issues such as crime control, industrial development, agricultural development and tourism development independently and in depth.

For this plan to have maximum effect it requires the consultation of anyone who wishes to participate. Pending the launch of our website we have established email service at [email protected] Please send comments to that address or post your comments here.

Posted By: awhatukeeguy

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 05:07 PM

a 4 lane highway from the Mexican border at Bacalar Chico south ending at San Pedro Town.

Just where do they intend to park all the cars? Are they going to construct a giant four level parking garage maybe next to the new football stadium? Crazy!
Posted By: SP Daily

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 05:15 PM

A car park next to Elbert's house and a tram on into San Pedro Town
Posted By: chris45

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 05:43 PM

Some interesting thoughts and ideas here, some contentious, some needing a whole lot more discussion.
But the opening paragraph very clearly lays out what is wrong and why we are where we are.
One thing that needs to be debated publicly is whether some of the communities most affected actually want the sort of changes that a superhighway would bring. I think particularly of Ambergris caye which would be changed forever if there were highway access from and to Mexico. Is this what people want? I just ask the question.
Posted By: chris45

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 05:53 PM

Oh BTW the e mail address [email protected] is bouncing back as "doesn't exist"
Can you confirm please?
Posted By: bywarren

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 05:59 PM

The major problem I see is so many of the ideas to improve Belize is to bring more tourists and more development. Until the infrastucture can handle not only an increase in population, but the current population and the issue of making Belize a safer place are addressed, these ideas seem counter productive.
Successful businesses invest first in what is needed to handle their business, not attempt to attract more business than they can handle hoping to generate revenues to catch up with what is needed.
Posted By: Mike Campbell

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 08:12 PM

Originally Posted by chris45
I think particularly of Ambergris caye which would be changed forever if there were highway access from and to Mexico. Is this what people want? I just ask the question.

Personally I am in favor of no road of any kind but that is not realistic, the need for a road has been recognized for 20years but never acted on. Last year with no public consultation the Min of Tourism and Mexico signed a letter of intent to put a road connecting Mexico and San Pedro. Maybe that assumption needs to be addressed as to whether we want it or not. I see many problems with the idea of a road border crossing at Bacalar Chico but as is its govt. policy.
It is however probably environmentally less damaging to have a road than constant barge and boat traffic along the reef. If we continue to develop we will have some tough environmental decisions that will have to be made with care and much public consultation but we can not continue as we are as the environmental degradation has become too much. We must open the new town and we must connect it to San Pedro and allow for orderly development of the area.
There was once an idea to put a narrow gauge train up to Mexico. The four lane highway needs to be looked at as a starting point in a design process and focus on the best and must environmentally sensitive way to solve this problem. The tram idea needs to be researched and explored as well. The best environmental solution will probably be more expensive but that is not the issue, it must be done right.
PlusTv will be discussing this live with call-ins weekly at 2pm-4pm on alternate Saturdays.
Posted By: Mike Campbell

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 09:14 PM

Warren, you are very correct in this. Development without infrastructure is the curse of the island. It is an issue in other places but few as critical as San Pedro because of our lowlands. Locally it is a political problem as these substandard developments were approved. Nationally the problem is harder. There have been studies that conclude that Belize needs a minimum population of 1,000,000 before it will have the tax base to supply services to the towns. We have a catch 22 and chicken and egg situation. We must assure that all future development has the proper infrastructure in place before the actual development begins. Unfortunately we must play catch up. Our credit has been exhausted for I am not sure what benefit to the country so bonds are not an option.
Toll roads are usually private sector ventures and only require land acquisition from the government. The initial stages of development would put no additional stress on our infrastructure and would be an economic boost to both private and public sector. All future development must have adequate infrastructure before being permitted. With planning and execution we can be ready for the increase in business we all need.
If the government had a development plan that was realistic possibly our creditors would give us a break so we could put ourselves together some. I dont see how a $6M boardwalk soccer field project fits in nor the million dollar fence around the stadium in Belize City. Priorities by the govt are critical as private sector cannot fix all these infrastructure deficiencies and we must have development to survive. This road system is seen as the first step in building our infrastructure and cannot solve all our problems but can be part of the solution.
Posted By: chris45

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 09:37 PM

Yes Mike. your last sentence above is the important thing. Roads first, then everything else follows, PROVIDED we have a coherent plan.
I thought there already was a mesoamerican (?) highway planned to connect Mexico with Guatemala. A new road down from the Mexican border, meeting the existing highway above Belmopan and then following the Hummingbird and southern highways to PG and then a new piece to take us all the way through to Guatemala I thought I heard somewhere that is still on the stocks?? Or perhaps like so many of these things idle gossip.
And for the record a $6M boardwalk and a Million dollar fence around the BC stadium??? Unbelievable. We are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, when we should all be paying more attention to plans such as Gladden (to mix a metaphor )
Posted By: Mike Campbell

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/02/10 10:37 PM

I have never heard of that plan but that does not mean it does not exist. The concept is valid. This plan will however potentially allow development of prime land due to its strategic coastal location.
Posted By: chris45

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/03/10 02:52 PM

Sorry, Mike I should have said Pan American Highway. My understanding is its more than a pipedream, but I don't know what stage its at. Probably a shelved GOB plan like many others!
Posted By: Barbara K

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/04/10 04:37 PM

Who's plan is this? Sounds a bit ambitious...
Posted By: Mike Campbell

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/05/10 03:06 AM

Hi Barbara, sorry for the delayed response. Our power was off for 30 hrs and I am just getting caught up.
Arthur Saldivar, a Belize City attorney, approached me with his idea of building a toll road connecting Mexico and Guatemala with wind farms and industrial zones included and asked me to research it and flesh it out. He named it after his grandfather.
I, of course, put in the stuff for Ambergris Caye as it is the same as the master plan recommendations and I would not have been involved unless I could get something for San Pedro included in the package. I also added the Western Super Highway as it is sorely needed. The writing is mine.
I have researched costs and tolls, traffic etc. and believe that, on first blush it should work, money-wise. I researched tolls across Mexico and the Us and looked at the types and volumes of goods crossing at Chiapas and it would seem the project could be feasible.
The estimated total cost all in is $750 Million USD. Toll roads are usually financed by private sector. In the US investors buy into tolls roads based on a value of 60 years revenue in France it's 12.5 years.
It is an enormously ambitious project but it is the only idea I have heard that even has a chance of changing our sorry state so I have gotten even more sold on the idea as I have been writing and researching.
I have changed the part about our border crossing and the new text follows: "An agreement with Mexico has already been signed expressing agreement to build this road although no public consultation has been held on the subject. The suitability of this crossing should be decided by the people of San Pedro through public consultation."
This has been given to both San Pedro papers and Mr. Saldivar has given it to the Belize City press as well.
It was presented on PlusTv in Belmopan last Sat afternoon with myself, Arthur Saldivar and Hubert Elrington but I dont know when it will air in San Pedro but it will be discussed on PlusTV on alternate Saturdays at 2-4pm.
The proposal has been circulated around the legal circles in Belize and is well received.
Boils down to the fact that nobody in government has a plan. Private sector must come up with a plan to save the country as the GOB does not have one.
I doubt that a plan any less ambitious than this would have much of a chance to make a difference.
Posted By: James Pearce

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/06/10 03:41 PM

Initially I thought that a super highway would be the last thing the country needed, but the logic isn't unconvincing. It is easy to forget how few entry points there are to the whole country.

For it to be a trunk route, presumably it needs to stitch together with the neighboring networks. What happens when the thundering Western Super Highway suddenly becomes a dirt track on the Guatemalan side?

It seems to me that much tourism is discouraged by high international flight costs as much as the domestic ones - will a second airport increase competition and lower the landing fees? Healthy if so.

Finally, I always thought Belize could benefit from providing non-tourism services (like IT, outsourcing etc) - low cost base, English speaking, US timezone, well-educated diaspora etc etc. India has shown that you can splice high-end tertiary industries onto the base of a poor agrarian economy and become a world super power.

Of course India is different to Belize in (literally) a billion ways - but, for what it's worth, their road network still sucks.
Posted By: Mike Campbell

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/06/10 04:27 PM

Thank you for your comments James. The road connection with Mexico should be very easy. In the south Guatemala has existing road that brushes the Belize border at the south west corner. Although the concept map shows the road ending close to the coast I think it needs to go to where Guatemala already has a road. The trade between Guatemala and Mexico is huge and a road across Belize could in many cases save days of travel time.
I dont really foresee a major border crossing springing up at the Western Frontier. The super highway would be for internal use. The existing western highway has claimed around 200 lives so far and is not suitable for even the traffic it now carries. When a tourist bus crashes and kills a bunch of people we will have a problem. Would like to work out getting all the cargo and public transport vehicles onto divided highways including petroleum transportation. It would also supply the link between Cayo tourism, manufacturing and agriculture and the International Highway and its markets.
The potential of the International Highway exists only as a result of geography but for that reason the project may be less speculative than it initially seems.
Posted By: beachdude

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/08/10 03:39 AM

What is all this talk of a road in San Pedro or near the Hummingbird? Did I miss something? The map provided by Marty clearly shows a road that never comes near either one.
Posted By: Mike Campbell

Re: The Gladden Plan: A Sustainable Development Plan - 08/10/10 05:25 PM

The concept map Marty posted is a proposed route of the International Highway based on several factors. The Western Super Highway is not shown but will be in the same location as the existing Western Highway. The road on North Ambergris Caye is also not shown. The exact path of the North Ambergris Caye road will have to be carefully considered and agreed on. The maps will be updated by the end of the month. These maps including the updates, should be considered as conceptual at this stage and are offered for discussion. The Hummingbird is not part of this plan except to try to direct the oil transport and heavy cargo vehicles which now use it onto the new road system which would be much safer for all.
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