Last Friday the Government majority in the House of Representatives rushed through a bill for a U.S. $12m loan from the OPEC Fund as partial financing for the replacement of the Haulover Bridge at the entrance to Belize City. When the Opposition Leader John Briceno requested more time to study the loan motion, the Prime Minister called him names and did not support the request. There was little further explanation about the project, but today there was much discussion before the Senate as to the need for the loan. The Business and Opposition Senators raised questions about the loan, since back in they had already deliberated on a loan for the bridge back in 2014.
Senator Mark Lizarraga – Chamber Senator
“In 2014 we came to this and we were asked to approve a loan for that very same road, that very same bridge as part of a package at that time for 60 million dollars and I remember quite clearly quote: from the verbatim that we were asked to seek to approve some 60 million dollars for this road with very little or no explanation again, as to what we will be getting for that 60 million with the leader of government business answered got up and spoke on it, he was not able to provide any of the details while he recognized and did not quarrel with the statements that we have to be responsible with the people’s money.”
Senator Eamon Courtenay -PUP Senator
“I rise like the honorable Senator to express undiluted and unbridle concern about something which the minister of finance with his characteristic lack of dignity flush with arrogance said last Friday; any fool can digest it in five minutes, Mr. President and members of the Senate this Senator digest it in five minutes and we have upset stomach. Senator Lizarraga directed first of all to the loan motion dated 2nd of October 2014 for US 29.7 million, effectively US30 million, BZ60 Million and there was no doubt what the purpose was for. Well we know that the minister of finance executed those documents because monies have been disburse, 60 million dollars borrowed Mr. President, when was it March 2016 a mist a lot of fan fear, Cisco Construction was given a contract valued at 13.5 million for that part of the road from the Airport to the Hallover Bridge, 13.5 million out of the 60 million, bankers tell me how much was left with 47.5 million the bankers says am right, 47.5 million left Mr. President, you see how the fool is digesting it, we are looking for some honesty, then again 28th of march 2016, this time is Mr. Montero 20.9 million for that portion from the bridge to the roundabout at Chetumal street, bankers make we call that 21, 26 million dollars are left, one would assume Mr. President that the government was honest when he brought this motion in 2015 had done its due diligence, had had the advice of the engineers, had have advice of the architects maybe from Bill, I don’t know and had calculated that the amount that they were borrowing from the CDB was sufficient 26.5 million would have covered, what was it; a bridge, the upgrading of the highway including a bridge, safety improvements, climate adaptation works and related consultancy services, there are 26.5 million dollars left Mr. President and before that is spent the Prime Minister comes to the house with another motion.”
Senator Carla Barnett, UDP Senator
“I happened to be in a different place when this loan motion was first brought to the Senate for approval in fact I was at CDB so I was in the ground at CDB when this project was being contemplated and designed. The reality is that we’re building roads in areas that have been traditionally river delta, wet lands on the mangroves with all that that implies for additional costs, the original estimates for the bridge, the original funds allocated for the bridge did not have at the time the loan was being considered designs, I was not here around the table when this was being done, so there was not any real estimate for what it would totally cost but there was an understanding that it was an essential part of the project because of the bridge not only because of the realignment but the bridge in itself was old and failing and needs to be change even if we were not replacing it to realign it so that’s absolutely accurate in terms of needing to replace the bridge, the funds originally allocated for the bridge by CDB is part of the total cost of the bridge, they are going to be used for the bridge construction, what is happening now is that the full cost of the bridge is going to be covered by the co-financing from OFID so this is an additional cost now that the bridge has been properly contextualize and the design elements has been set out.”
There was concern raised about the design of the bridge which is intended to have three lanes. According to Senator Courtenay, they consulted with Ministry of Works Engineers and they also expressed concerns.