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Mar 15, 2018

Bumps in the Senate on the road to Caracol

On Wednesday Senators debated several loan motions, including the ninety million dollar government-backed loan for Belize Telemedia Limited to upgrade its fiber optic network to provide high-speed internet to homes and businesses. Another such motion is the OFID forty-million U.S. dollar loan for the construction of the Caracol Road, passed in the House previously. But the quarrel raised by the social partner and Opposition Senators, particularly the P.U.P.’s Valerie Woods, is whether Belize needs to add more debt to its already astronomically high debt profile which is ninety-three percent of G.D.P. She also queried whether the project has ticked off all the relevant check marks. Senate Leader of Government Business Godwin Hulse attempted to answer some of the criticisms.

 

Valerie Woods, P.U.P. Senator

Valerie Woods

“In the same likeness of the words – or at least, in the same spirit that I took it to mean by the Prime Minister – the magnitude of such a project would have required a comprehensive feasibility study. The pros, the cons, scenario one and scenario two, and all the consolation – meaningful one at that. So that you could have looked at the percentage growth, not just in tourism in the area via arrivals, but in terms of the tourism plant, in terms of crop per acre for the farmers in the area; in terms of ancillary services provided by community residents in the area; in terms of the boost in Belizean visitation to one of the most remarkable places of this country, but we don’t know that now. And that is why I cannot support this loan motion. At some juncture, we’re going to have to change the way we do business, or at least how we do discourse in this chamber, and it would certainly help, Mr. President, if we had all the  information with us.”

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Leader of Government Business

“The road works will be widening and upgrading the existing single-carriageway Caracol Road to an asphalt-surface road. Senator [Paul] Thompson asked whether it was asphalt, and that’s what it says here; if he has further questions, the Ministry of Works would be able to answer that. With two lanes, totaling seven-point-three meters width, and a one-point-five meter shoulder on each side, and the works include the improvement of the geometric alignment, both horizontal and vertical, and the construction of embankments; that is the details we need for the road works. The bridges – we’re constructing six reinforced concrete bridges with a single span, varying from fifteen meters to seventy meters. Bridges will be nine point two meters wide, and include two three-point-seven meter traffic lanes, with point-six meter wide shoulders on each side. Bridges will have two reinforced concrete abutments on each end, and additional works will include the improvement of the furniture, lighting and safety measures. It tells you about drainage and it says, ‘including the provision of lined drains on both sides of the road,’ and it talks about ancillary works. That is the details we are given, so that we can decide: are we going to support the request of the Executive to improve access to Caracol? It’s about the access.”

 

Some of the Senators told us that the actual project will cost about ninety million dollars since the Government has already spent a couple million on feasibility studies, and they will fund the rest of that additional ten million through counterpart financing.

 

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