Why isn’t Belize a part of major Central American projects?
Although the initiative will have positive results, Belize is handicapped in its competitiveness because it has higher labor, utility and telecommunication costs than other regional countries. The Inter-American Development Bank has embarked on a Central American Electricity interconnection project that would provide cheap power from Panama to Mexico. Belize, however, is not a part of that initiative. Neither is it part of the IDB’s project that would lead to cheaper telecommunications and a disaster relief fund for Central America that could provide millions of dollars within days of a catastrophe. But while at the Aid For Trade conference, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington indicated that participation in the regional electricity project may eventually become a reality.
Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
“My own information that I have had really is that there is a plan for us ultimately to become tied in with the electricity generating project. That’s a whole central American thing going all the way from México down, and the plan is certainly for us to become a part of it but it takes time for that to be done, but certainly we are in negotiation with the countries involved to have that done. I’m not sure with respect to the disaster and mitigation activities; maybe the C.E.O. knows more about that than I do.”
Alexis Rosado, C.E.O., Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
“Yes, I must say I am impressed with your knowledge of the projects and programs in the region. I wish that more of the public would be more aware of it. We are members of the Mesoamerican projects that you referred to and there are projects in the pipeline to connect us to the electricity network and also the telecommunications; that is slower but that is partly due to the fact that the utility companies were the ones that were leading in those regional activities and for some reason or the other we were not being represented. But we have started to be represented so much so that Belize now holds the chairmanship of the Mesoamerican program, the ones that you referred to that include all of these activities. In fact the chairmanship will be handed over to us at the end of the month in Colombia. With respect to the disaster facility, I understand that we are party to a similar program with CARICOM and that might be the reason why we are not members of the facility in Central America.”
Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington
“Certainly the high cost of our labor, the high cost of electricity and energy are part of the problem that we are faced with. Of course we are also faced with the fact that we don’t have skilled personnel. We have expenses, transpiration, poor harbor facilities—not efficient. So we have a number of weaknesses that prevent us from being as efficient and as competitive as we can be. The good news is that this program launch today is in fact designed to see how we can get the resources both financial and technical to remedy those situations. That is what this launch is all about today. We recognize the limitations and we are working assiduously to correct them.”
Belize is the first CARICOM country where the strategy is being introduced that will eventually be used in the rest of the region.