Features — 18 June 2013 — by Miriam Longsworth
Dangriga Town behind in development projects

Market renovation delay is causing vendors to lose revenue

Dangriga Town is the only municipality that has not seen completion of phase one of the two-part Belize Municipal Development Project (BMDP) under the Social Investment Fund.

We were told that last Wednesday a team from the World Bank and Social Investment Fund (SIF) visited the Town Council to take a mid-term review for the BMDP and to check the project’s progress, challenges and lessons learned, among other things.

The Dangriga Market Extension and Renovation Project is a $1.3 million dollar project and is the largest project under phase one of the BMDP. However, Dangriga’s market project is the only phase one project in the country that has not been completed as yet. Dangriga Town Mayor Gilbert Swaso said it is all due to poor management and financing.

“The Dangriga Market Extension and Renovation is significantly delayed,” he said. “As a matter of fact, since the signing of the contract it was expected that that project should have been completed end of July, which is the one-year period since the signing of the contract. However, because of several factors which include from a SIF perspective, poor management and poor financing of the contractor, that market is significantly delayed.”

The delay has caused several inconveniences for the residents of Dangriga. The Mayor said that the prolonging of the renovations is causing the vendors to lose income, which the vendors were assured would not happen as a result of the project.

“It has caused specific inconvenience to the vendors who are temporarily housed in a location with a view that they were not expected to lose much revenue as a result of that transition and while they’re waiting for the completion of the market,” he said. “The social component of BMDP specifically states that those vendors should not lose any significant income as a result of the transition,” he went on to say.

An ongoing land dispute between the Dangriga Town Council, the Ministry of Lands and a Dangriga resident has also been contributing to loss of revenue for the vendors. The rightful ownership of a specific parcel of land to the north of the Stann Creek River, near the main bridge, is the reason for the dispute.

The Town Council claims that the land is for public use, while the resident claims that the land belongs to him, although he has no legal documents to prove it.

The Mayor said that the Ministry of Lands has given the resident a letter indicating that the land would be commissioned to him. So, he uses the letter as authority to give permission to vendors to conduct their business there. That is being done against the Council’s instruction that no vending of any kind should take place in that area.

The vendors who are in the temporary location permitted by the Town Council are losing revenue because purchasers choose the other vendors who are located in the area near the bridge.

The Mayor said that he mentioned to SIF and the World Bank at their meeting last week that the market needs to be completed at the earliest time and at the best quality.

“We also said to them that while there are no… legal stipulations within the contract to indicate that the local people must be hired, we are just saying that we want them to consider changing that clause of the contract and have our people employed,” he said. “It is their tax money that is paying the three percent of the contribution and it is them who solicited the market project to be priority. So they should be beneficiaries out of that 1.3 [million dollars] being spent in Dangriga,” he noted.

He also asked that SIF and World Bank collaborate with them on regularizing the land dispute issue and ensuring that the continuation of the project will not cause any further inconveniences to the vendors or residents of Dangriga.

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