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Jun 5, 2023

Senators Peyrefitte and Chanona Raise Concerns Over $90 million Hospital Project

Janelle Chanona

Michael Peyrefitte

The second debate in the Senate was over a ninety million dollar loan that the government has secured from the Saudi Government to build a state-of-the-art replacement tertiary-level hospital for the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan. The facility will be built on the University of Belize campus and would also serve as a university hospital for medical education. The loan is accompanied by a two percent interest rate. The loan comes nine months after Belize and Saudi Arabia established diplomatic relations. But diplomatic ties aside, U.D.P. Senator, Michael Peyrefitte would have none of the proposal supporting the project. Following his arguments, senator for the non-government organizations, Janelle Chanona, also raised concerns on the loan.


Michael Peyrefitte, Lead Opposition Senator

“This is a $45 million U.S dollars, but Madam President it is a drop in the bucket for the Saudis. Why are we borrowing money from these people? These people supposed to give we that. That’s a little bit of money for them. And then when you look at the agreement, Madam President, oh my goodness. Madam President, when you look at the agreement, they have the loan agreement between the government and the Saudi Fund for Development. Look at some of the clauses in this agreement. I don’t know if the government mi think we nuh mi wa read it, but, look at Section 303. Let’s start with that. It says that the borrower shall cause the executing agency, who is the Ministry of Economic Development, the government wa mek sure that the ministry employs qualified and experienced Saudi consultants or joint venture of Saudi-Belize consulting offices acceptable to dehn the Saudis, in order to assist in project tendering and supervision of the execution of the project. So, dehn di lend we the money, and in typical vampire ways, we have to hire them to consult and they have to approve all who will work on this hospital.”


Janelle Chanona, Senator, N.G.O.’s Community 

“For us, the number that was very scary was actually at schedule two on page 10 of the loan agreement. And I’ve seen it also in the international coverage where it’s saying that the hospital will benefit approximately 200,000 citizens per year. Now, Madam President, our concern is that a tertiary care hospital is specialist care. We’re talking about cancer, we’re talking about high – you’re already in dire streets when you need tertiary care, and this is anticipating a significant chunk of our productive sector needing annually tertiary level care. And we had questions in terms of does this represent a shift from the emphasis on primary care, preventative care now that we’re investing in tertiary care health systems or a health system here and what this does also in terms of there was language, I think in the, in the other document, the general conditions, but certainly in the press coverage that this was anticipated not just to be a teaching hospital, but also for employment and investment opportunities in healthcare. I wasn’t sure how this would then impact over and beyond the public system, the private healthcare system, and the investments that have also been made to some extent via taxpayers dollars in private, tertiary level institutions. So the question is, is it that we’re actually expecting 200,000 of our fellow citizens to be able to afford, but not only afford, but to require tertiary level care on an annual basis? And that’s the justification in part, for establishing this institution, cause that that does – to our representatives – that is a large concern for us.”

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