OB grants 3.8 million to street project

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 7            February 15, 2007

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Mayor Elsa Paz, Right Honorable Said Musa and Mr. David Medina sign the Memorandum Of Understanding regarding the Street Project.

Rt. Hon. Said Musa is given a tour of the street (Barrier Reef Drive) that is now under construction.

Valentine’s Day is a day of love and sharing and Valentine’s Day 2007 will certainly go down in the history books as one that changed San Pedro Town for the best. Valentine’s Day, the day Prime Minister Right Honorable Said Musa visited “La Isla Bonita” and came bearing a very generous and much needed gift. After careful consideration, much thought, and discussion with his administration, Honorable Musa announced that the Government of Belize had decided to give the community of San Pedro a $3.8 million grant instead of a loan, as had been previously stated.

    The sun cast its bright rays of sunshine upon San Pedro Town as Honorable Musa and Honorable Godfrey Smith (Minister of Tourism) met with local government, David Medina (contractor hired for the cobblestone project), members of the Belize Tourism Board and the general public to sign the Memorandum of Understanding between local authorities and Central Government as it relates to the Cobblestone Street Project for the Southern Road. The historic occasion took place at the San Pedro Lions Den and acting as Master of Ceremonies was the man behind getting government’s attention, Andre Perez. “Today is a Valentine’s Day we will not forget. And not only because of what will take place today, but also because of the symbolism of it all. This morning at the San Pedro Airstrip, who was there to welcome our esteemed Prime Minister but our Mayor and Area Representative. They displayed a true Belizean quality as well as displaying what we are as a community; our unity. It was beautiful to see the unity between the San Pedro Town Council, Government and the local business community; joining together as one, compromising and meeting half way to meet a common goal one that will get one step closer to being finalized today.” MC Perez went on to welcome Mayor of San Pedro Town Elsa Paz who delivered the Welcome Address. “For some time now, the people of San Pedro and our esteemed visitors have endured the deplorable conditions of our streets and today, we rejoice as we move forward ensuring that the street rehabilitation project becomes a reality.[…] We all know the story behind this project – the many obstacles we encountered while trying to carry out these much-needed improvements, but because of the Council’s determination and the driving force of the local business community, the street rehabilitation committee, and the Government of Belize, we can now exult in this step forward in accomplishing our goals. Again, we have proven that unity makes the force. […]The fulfillment of this project is again a reassurance to all, that we at the Town Council and that the Government of Belize have the interest of the people of San Pedro at heart and that we will do everything that is in our hands to continue giving the people of San Pedro what they deserve.”

    Following Mayor Paz’s speech was an address for Belize Rural South Representative Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr., “We couldn’t afford to lose our (tourism) industry, not just locally but countrywide, as well. Yesterday, we learned that it would not be a loan but a grant. And, when we say a grant it comes free of Government Sales Tax (GST). Because of this grant we can go further with our projects. […] On behalf of local government and the community of San Pedro, Honorable Musa thank you and please extend our gratitude to your administration. If not for your willingness it could not have happened, thank you. […] Anything that happens to San Pedro, whoever makes it happen, whatever political affiliation, benefits the community and residents of the island.”

    Taking the podium next was Minister of Tourism Honorable Godfrey Smith. As always, smiling brightly, he went on to commend “some of the initiators.” He took time to applaud Andre Perez who started it all with that one letter he wrote to government, “another person, sitting quietly behind the scenes but a great driving force Elito Arceo,” and applauded the efforts as well of Standard Bearer for Belize Rural South representative for the People’s United Party Merlene “Mel” Spain, “who was the voice behind supporting this project at the Cabinet Meetings she was invited to.” Honorable Smith stated that San Pedro is of great importance to the tourism industry of Belize. “And, what is better than to match actions to words and that is why the Prime Minister is here today. […] Without San Pedro being the economic generator we, as a country, would be nowhere.” After a round of applause, Honorable Musa took to the stage. “In the future when children ask, who made this project possible? We won’t say the red or the blue. Look at the Belizean flag, yes there is a predominance of blue but there is always red there. […] All three colors; the white, blue and red all symbolize the unity of the Belizean people. […] Before, as politicians we used to fight to the death and tear ourselves apart. But who suffered in that struggle? Not the politicians but the people. Here in San Pedro we are seeing a new breed of politics, one where colors are put aside and everyone works for the common goal of the people.[…] It also shows that there is a recognition on behalf of our Government that we can’t play politics, not with this issue. 50% of the Hotel Tax revenue is provided by San Pedro, not to mention, Business and Income taxes as well as the jobs generated.

    Government can’t ignore the fact but recognize that San Pedro is the leader in this tourism explosion. […] We considered the loan but it was an unrealistic path for the San Pedro Town Council since it would take away from their revenues which could be used to improve other areas of the community. What about those living in the low lying areas, we can’t just improve the tourism areas we need to upgrade the standard of living for our Belizean residents too. […] Contractor Medina has stated that this project can be completed by the end of this year and we will hold him to this.”

    Before the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between local authorities and Central Government, MC Andre commended those behind the scenes, the member of the San Pedro Street Committee – Terry Anderson, Chris Allnatt, Peter Lawrence, Tim Jeffers, Einer Gomez, and Elito Arceo.

    The moment came, the one everyone waited for. Signing were Prime Minister Said Musa, Mayor Elsa Paz, David Medina as a witness, and Patricia Verde, Town Administrator. The MOU stated that The Government will finance the rehabilitation of the Southern Road (Coconut Drive and Sea Grape Drive), San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, up to a total of BZ$3.8 million. The Government shall also take such action as may be necessary to grant GST exemption on the road rehabilitation project.

    After the signing, Honorable Musa was given a tour of the Barrier Reef Rehabilitation Project which has already commenced.

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