Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow made his first public appearance since his return from seeking medical attention abroad, and his return is accompanied by the announcement of long awaited improvements in the private and public sectors which he made in a press conference held this morning in Belize City.
The larger part of his presentation focused on infrastructural improvements to road networks across the country which has only been worsened by continuous rains over the last several weeks. But first, the Prime Minister announced that while government, through the National Emergency Management Organization, NEMO, has been providing assistance to families affected by the recent floods in the Northern and Western part of the country, they will be giving additional assistance to about one hundred families in the Cayo District and twenty families in the Stann Creek District.
These families will be receiving food packages of three thousand dollars each per family. Furthermore, the Prime Minister announced that government will be replacing household items that were damaged by flood waters. Now, we move on to the announcement of funds for proposed infrastructural improvements – road works. Prime Minister Dean Barrow says that they have allocated funds for the immediate repair of roads that are in extremely deplorable conditions.
In addition to this, government is seeking to fund a larger scale project that also seeks to improve road infrastructure. This project has been allocated 76.72 million dollars which will be funded primarily through the Petro Caribe agreement with Venezuela.
Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
“This Petro Caribe fund is under the agreement between Belize and Venezuela only available for use in Capital projects, I tried to say in the national assembly in the context of the ask on the part of the teachers and public officers for salary increases that we cannot use Petro Caribe monies to fund recurrent expenditure, to fund salary increases, conceptually we don’t us borrowed money this is borrowed money you all know to pay salaries but in addition to that conceptual constrain contractually or by in consequence of the international agreement that is just not on we would be in breach of the term and conditions if we are attempting to do that .”
The budget is separated in two categories: major highways and village roads. In the first category, government proposes to spend 16.73 million dollars on improving the Philip Goldson Highway and 5.3 million on the George Price Highway. In terms of village roads, the Prime Minister announced the following disbursement: 6.34 million in the Cayo District, 10.95 million in the Belize District which will also fund work on bridges, 8.63 million in Stann Creek, 15.61 million in the Toledo District, 2.92 million for the Orange Walk District and 10.25 million for the Corozal District.
There is also the promise for additional funds for street rehabilitation in the various municipalities. Belize City alone is being allocated over 990 thousand dollars and an additional 2.5 million dollars for drainage. Here is what the government proposes to provide for the northern part of the country.
Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
“The Phillip Goldson highway passes through Orange Walk Town as we know and serves as the main street of the town and government is going to start to immediately fix that and I think that is going to be in excess to 2 million dollars and so Orange Walk is going to be well handles, the San Antonio road that created such controversy we will also do a portion of that, a portion that is inside the town and that is going to be am sure but we haven’t cost it as yet but I am sure that is going to be in excess of half a million dollars that will take care of Orange Walk town, we are going to be helping Corozal, we had already started. That budget is for 2.269 million dollars and the ministry of finance, of course, has I think it has already made the first trange of 962,355 available and will make the balance available as soon as the call is made by the ministry of works.”
In Corozal Town the amount expected to be invested is somewhere around one hundred thousand dollars. Funds are also being allocated for the other municipalities. And when are these works going to get started? Lenox Bradley, Chief Engineer for the Ministry of Works gave the time line.
Lenox Bradley- Chief Engineer for the Ministry of Works
“Phase one is what he mentioned with the immediate remedial works which amounts to 2.2 million and that is country wide excluding the municipalities. The municipalities will see additional funds as the Prime Minister mentioned. In terms of the longer improvement which will be termed as phase two which amounts to 76.72 million we propose that that money will be spent over a three year period. And why a three year period the first year we assume will require the preparatory works to be completed, most of the works that we have proposed include drainage works, drainage works you need to get on the grounds and gather your field data and we assume that the field data will take about a year to put together along with the designs and then the actual implementations, the civil works aspect of it will be completed over a two year period.”
Government also announced the intent to rehabilitate the Humming Bird Highway for which they have obtained a commitment for funding to the tune of twenty six million dollars.
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