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Mar 27, 2002

Differences submerged, B.W.S. & P.M. open water plant

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The new owners of the Water and Sewerage Authority, renamed Belize Water Services Limited, have been alternately hailed as farsighted strategic investors and vilified as rapacious international scavengers. Today those extreme descriptions were set aside as B.W.S. and government put their differences behind them and looked toward a better future.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

This afternoon, Prime Minister Said Musa joined officials of Belize Water Services Limited and its parent company, CASCAL, to inaugurate a new water treatment plant that effectively doubles the capacity of the original facility at Double Run on the Belize River.

Jim Cooper, CEO, B.W.S.

“People are already enjoying the benefits of this project. Bits of it have come on stream at different times, and at the moment we have people delighted that they can take a shower whenever they want, at 2 o’clock in the morning, whether they’re on the fifth floor or on the ground floor. They’re benefiting from both increased quantities of water and increased pressure. But this is just the starting point.”

According to B.W.S. officials, this new plant is part of a multi-million dollar expansion project for Belize City customers.

Martin Greenhalgh, CEO Designate, B.W.S.

“Other less obvious facets of the twenty-five million dollar project are the new twenty-four inch transmission main constructed by Johnston International; fourteen inch distribution main from the B.W.S. pumping station on Central American Boulevard to mile nine on the Western Highway. This opens up and facilitates expansion and future growth for those surrounding areas.

The entire project has been a great example of multi-national teamwork and leaves Belize City with a state of the art treatment plant, of which we can all be proud. We should also be secure now in the knowledge that future generations will benefit from this far sighted investment.”

Since WASA became B.W.S. just over a year ago, the relationship between the water company and the government of Belize has been, at times, turbulent.

Paul Gledhill, CEO, CASCAL

“When we took over the business it was fair to say that the position was far worse than we had imagined on take over; and then the government was aware of at the time. Obviously, in any new partnership, as we have to be in the case of Belize, we have to work with the customers, the employees, the regulator, government. If it’s going to be successful, it requires all those parties to work together like a family. And as in any new relationship, it takes time to get to know each other and understand each other’s positions. And I believe over the last nine months that’s the position we’ve now achieved with the regulatory in particular, we’ve made some substantial headway in understanding how the water and sewerage industry will be regulated going forward. And certainly on that basis now, CASCAL is very happy to be here and sees a very bright future for the company and significantly improved standard of service for our customers.”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“I believe all the glitches as you put them have been removed now and I believe you will find that from this point onwards, we will have a far more harmonious relationship. That’s not to say that in a family you won’t have arguments and difficulties from time to time, but I believed that we have put behind us the major problems that existed at the time when the privatisation took place. And they understand they were brought in for at least two or three main reasons. One is because they have the expertise and the technology, so we needed a strategic investor, to improve what we had before, which was a good system. But secondly, they have the access to international financing without burdening the government with any additional debt. So it’s the private company that will assume any additional debt for future development. And this is what privatisation is all about, that the country will be able to satisfy the demand for increased use of water and sewerage without creating a debt burden on the country. So it is very important.”

Janelle Chanona

“If the situation becomes what was a couple month ago, will government be there to bail them out?”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“We didn’t really bail them out, we provided a facility whereby they were able to get the loan funds for the shot-term. But, yes, of course we have to work in partnership. We have a responsibility to the Belizean consumer, so it is in our interests as well as a government to ensure that things work smoothly, to ensure that there are still people being hooked up who need their water. New homes being built, they need their water, they need their sewer systems, so we have to drive this thing together.”

With continued investment planned for the future, B.W.S. is hoping to leave a good taste in the mouths of their employees, customers and regulators. Reporting for News 5, I am Janelle Chanona.

The project was funded through a twenty-five million dollar loan agreement with the Caribbean Development Bank.

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