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They inherited an overdraft of $110,000)from the previous municipal administration and last week Thursday that overdraft was classified as a non-performing loan causing the Belize Bank to freeze two of the present Orange Walk Town Council’s accounts including the account of the Transport Department, which is the councils main revenue earner. The council was left cash strapped, so much so, that they were unable to meet payroll for all their 110 employees. In trying to find a solution to the sticky situation, Mayor Kevin Bernard travelled to Belmopan to meet with representatives of the Ministry of Finance and Local Government.


But the response he got in no way alleviated the councils problem, in fact, we can safely say, that the Ministry’s response was quite disappointing because at the end of the day no assistance was granted to the council. To add insult to injury the Prime Minister of Belize was in no way willing to lend a helping hand and told the council during the sitting of the House of Representatives held last Friday, to, quote unquote “paddle their own canoe”. Well, that is exactly what the town council is doing as today Mayor Bernard met with representatives of the Belize Bank Limited to further discuss the overdraft payment.


Screen_shot_2013-10-02_at_7.47.12_PMKevin Bernard- Mayor Orange Walk Town

“At that meeting whilst short and I believe it was a good meeting the initial decision of the bank is that they required us to pay $7000.00 a month from our subvention in October, November and December, for three months that is bearing in mind that they have deducted eight thousand last week from our funds that we had in our account. What the bank has also told us is that if we are willing in January to renegotiate it terms by looking a possible reduction of that payment plan, what the bank wanted for us to do is for us to have paid the initially the seven thousand for the next eighteen months and we were clear to them that we cannot afford such payment terms it will cripple this council if we were to accept such terms reason being is that there at times when the council do have its moments when collections are very low and it would depend from our funds from all different revenue streams and one of them being the subvention. What was also discussed in that meeting is the alternative to reduce the interest rate we also stated to them that we wanted to see how they can reduce that interest rate when renegotiate this loan I January and the bank has also said that they are willing to set a portion of the accrued interest that has been build up during this period so that we could have a better payment term and a longer life to pay it off.”


Seven thousand dollars in a lapse of three months translates to $21,000. That’s money that could have been invested for the further development of the town. But despite the fact that paying off the overdraft facility will surely but a strain on the council, the work must continue and get done, says Mayor Bernard.


Kevin Bernard- Mayor Orange Walk Town

“While all these three months will be very tight for us we must say that the council is cognisant of it and we need to make some adjustments where we need to but we will continue to deliver on the services that we are committed to the people.  one of the issues that were brought up within ourselves is that we have agreed to have paved several other streets by the end of December so what we are hoping to do is to have a meeting with the contractor and to negotiate with them so that we could have a better payment term as well so that we do not find ourselves in any bind in any way that you cannot continue with the work, we are consistent in continuing on those street works, we want to pave those streets but we have to take all of these things into consideration.”


As previously mentioned, back in 2010 the Ministry of Finance, under the PUP Administration, approved an overdraft facility of $110,000 for the then UDP Town Council and also guaranteed the over draft. In April of 2011, the Dean Barrow Administration, through the Ministry of Finance, extended the facility by one year but at the same time advised the UDP Municipal Administration, headed by Mayor Philip De La Fuente, to pay off the over draft. We all know how that story ended. However, this present town council is steadfast in holding Government accountable for its actions and will continue lobbying with the Ministry of Finance for assistance.


Kevin Bernard- Mayor Orange Walk Town

“We believe that the ministry of finance should assist the council in dealing with this issue, in the Prime Minister’s presentation on Friday in the house he made it absolutely clear that he is not going to assist this council unless we can give him copies of our financial records, I also want to state here that the Prime Minister knows fully well that our financial records are lodge at the ministry of local government every month, it is on our website, however I am prepared to show whatever financial reports he requests and I will do also be writing the Prime Minister once again as a follow up to that issue; one to response to his comments and at the same time to make a further plea to the prime minister pointing out to him that we cannot really fully pay that overdraft facility it will cripple the councils and there are certain plan in place and  we have a lot of streets to maintain and a lot of work to carry out and we are hoping that the Prime Minister would rethink his decision and look at the matter In a more different angle and not on a political point but to see how we can solve this issue.”


Of note is that even before the accounts of the council were frozen, several letters were written to the Ministry of Finance for assistance to pay off the overdraft. None of the letters were responded to.

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