Highlights — 17 March 2015 — by Adele Ramos
GOB seeks Parliamentary approval for BZ$145 mil in financing

BELMOPAN, Fri. Mar. 13, 2015–In his 2015 budget speech, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow announced new infrastructure projects that are to be started in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, including the rehabilitation of the Hummingbird Highway, the George Price Highway (from Belmopan to Benque Viejo Town), and the Philip Goldson Highway, from Belize City to Sandhill—projects which he said would be donor-financed by means of either grants or concessional loan terms.

On the same occasion, Barrow presented a loan motion for one of those projects, which he said would be partially financed by Kuwait. He noted that the entire cost of the project to rehabilitate the Hummingbird Highway is BZ$75.1 mil, and the loan motion presented today sought Parliament’s approval to borrow 4 million Kuwait dinars, roughly US$13.5 million, from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development for financing of this project. He said that this would finance 40% of civil works and 100% of the technical assistance required. Another US$12 million will come from an OFID (OPEC Fund for International Development] loan to the Government of Belize to cover a further 32% of the total project costs, and the Government will cover the remaining cost of the project costs through counterpart resources.

The loan will finance the resurfacing of the entire 55 miles of road, from Belmopan to Dangriga, as well as the knockout of 6 single-lane bridges, which will be replaced by double-lane bridges.

The Kuwait Fund published an online report dated March 3, 2015, announcing that the loan agreement had been signed.

It said that, “The loan agreement was signed on behalf of Belize by His Excellency Mr. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, and on behalf of Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development by Mr. Ghanem Sulaiman Al-Ghenaiman, Deputy Director-General of Kuwait Fund…”

The Kuwait Fund added that, “the project aims to meet the increasing demand for the transport of passengers and goods in the Southern region of Belize, promote trade with the neighboring counties, and contribute to the economic and social development of the project area.”

Barrow noted in his address to Parliament that under the Finance and Audit Reform Act, prior authorization is needed from Parliament before the Government contracts the loan with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. Belize will have 24 years to repay the loan, with a 4-year grace period, at 2% per annum on the withdrawn portion of the loan.

The Minister of Finance also tabled a motion for a US$30 million loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), of which Belize is a member, to finance the Belize Integral Security Program. Barrow said that the key goal of the program is “to strengthen citizen security.”

He said that the funds will be used for investments in infrastructure and equipment for the Belize Coast Guard, the Belize Defence Force, the Belize Police Department and the National Forensic Sciences Service. This loan will be repaid over 15 years, and disbursed over 5 years.

Barrow also announced in Parliament, in his 2015 budget speech, that Government would fund the additional intakes for the Coast Guard and the Belize police force, as well as “increased allowances for the police to right a historical injustice and put them on par with the rest of the Public Service.”

Thirdly, Barrow presented a motion for US$28,776,243.39 from Venezuela via the PetroCaribe accord, signed with Belize in 2005 and revised in 2012. The repayment of the funds, borrowed between September 2014 and February 2015, under this agreement spans 25 years at a 1% interest rate.

Whereas the Minister of Finance indicated that he intended to have the motions for the infrastructure and security projects go through all their stages Friday, he said that the motion for the PetroCaribe loan would be held until the budget debate on Thursday, March 26.

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