Features — 18 March 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
Minister of Works addresses sugar roads

127 sugar roads have been rehabilitated, says Hon. Montero

The battered state of most of the sugar road networks in the Corozal and Orange Walk districts – which contributed to the delayed start of the 2013/2014 sugar cane season – were the subject of much discussion recently, and at the Government of Belize (GOB)’s annual budget presentation last Friday, March 7, the Minister of Works, Hon. Rene Montero, announced that those roads – which once stood in deplorable, even impassable conditions mainly due to excessive rains – are now receiving much-needed attention by way of contracts which were signed by GOB to conduct remedial works on those vital passageways.

In response to a question raised by Orange Walk Central area representative, Hon. John Briceño, Montero replied that over 100 sugar roads have been repaired in the northern districts.

Government had allocated funds totaling $2.7 million for sugar road works in late 2013, and Montero said, “In the Corozal division, there are 9 branches [of cane farmers associations]. $1,150,000 was allocated [for that division]. $8,998,256 has been spent and $243,850 is remaining. Funds to be allocated are $7,894.00.”

“In San Victor, 9 roads were completed; in Caledonia, 5 roads were completed; in Louisville, 6 roads were completed; in Libertad, 5 roads were completed; in Xaibe, 4 roads were completed; in San Joaquin, that is yet to be done, Mr. Speaker; and in Progresso, 5 roads were completed”, Montero claimed.

“In the Orange Walk district, Mr. Speaker, there are also 9 branches. Funds allocated [for that division] were $1,550,000 and $1,521,456.50 was spent. Remaining is $21,599.50. Funds not allocated are $6,936.15”, stated the Minister of Works.

“In San Estevan, 12 roads were completed; in San Jose, 6 roads were completed; in Guinea Grass, 4 roads were completed; in San Lazaro, a total of 11 roads were completed; in San Pablo, 4 roads were completed; in Orange Walk, 6 roads were completed; in Yo Creek, a total of 7 roads were completed and in San Roman, 5 roads were completed”, he added.

To sum it up, he declared that the monies which have been spent allowed for 72 roads to be rehabilitated in the Corozal district, while another 55 roads have been fixed in the Orange Walk District.

Montero went on to say that contracts for the works were not put out to tender because the contracts amounted to less than $20,000 each.

The announcement can be regarded as a breath of fresh air for the cañeros who, for the past few months, have had to endure deplorable sugar road conditions which had made sugar cane deliveries a lot more difficult.

Today, we made attempts to get in contact with the CEO of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), Oscar Alonzo; however we were told that he went to a meeting to discuss the progress of the works which are being done on the sugar roads.

Although the Minister of Works noted that about 72 of Corozal’s sugar roads were attended to, the road to the beautiful seaside village of Sartaneja had bedeviled commuters for some time.

That stretch of road had raised the ire of those who live in the locality, not only because of its dismal and impassable state which grew worse after a heightened rainy season late last year, but because the paving of that entire stretch was to have been concluded in early 2013.

Two weeks ago, on February 19, the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Works, Errol Gentle, told the media that parts of the road were still inundated and that the Ministry of Works’ Corozal branch was basically conducting works which were aimed at making the roadway passable.

CEO Gentle said that GOB plans to carry out the upgrades which were initially proposed “hopefully further down the road” through an internationally-funded project.

Six years ago, in 2008, the Government of Belize had allocated funds to develop the Sarteneja Road, however that money was diverted by then Minister of Works, Anthony ‘Boots’ Martinez, to pave Albert and Regent Streets in Belize City with the commitment that money would be immediately re-allocated for the Sarteneja project.

We tried to reach CEO Gentle to find out if it will be placed under any internationally-funded project in the near future, but our attempts have so far been unsuccessful.

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