Belizeans appreciate that a new bridge over the Haulover Creek and improvement of the Coastal Road are worthy projects, and they would praise the government without reservation if they weren’t staggered by the cost of the contracts. One report is that the new bridge will cost a fantastic $49 million, and the government says improvement of the Coastal Road will cost a whopping $133 million.
The last report we have received is that two contractors qualified to build the bridge, but only one bid was received, and it was over the budget. One contractor is an Italian firm, and the other is a Belize-Mexico company that is believed to include a government favorite, Mr. Imer Hernandez. The bridge might not cost all of the reported $49 million, but if the cost of the project is consistent with other infrastructural projects done by this UDP government, it might cost even more.
Information from Politecnica, the Italian company that designed the bridge, is that our ambitious government will build “the first single span bridge of its kind in Central America.” The bridge designer says “three different technical options were studied and offered to the client, for effective cost/benefit comparison (and) the Client selected the last option…due to its iconic characteristics and landscape value also.” In cash-strapped Belize, our government isn’t thinking utility: it is thinking aesthetics.
Putting aside the charge by the PUP that the contract for the road was illegally pushed through to favor the UDP’s favorite contractor, Mr. Hernandez, there is no reason why we should spend $133 million to improve the Coastal Road, even if $68 million is grant funding from the UK. Improving the road is essential, but if 50% of the project’s cost had been diverted to make investments in the people of Gales Point Manatee and Mullins River, we would still end up with an excellent road for 50 weeks of the year. There are areas of the road that flood, and for those two weeks Belizeans would have to put up with the inconvenience of going south through the longer route, the Hummingbird Highway.
Much of the $65 million plus saved could have been invested in the communities of Gales Point Manatee and Mullins River, and the other folk who live on that 36-mile stretch of road. The adults in those villages are good at tourism, and they are great at fishing and farming. They could have received the training to improve their skills, and the material resources to build hotels and do deep sea fishing and mechanized farming. The primary schools in those villages could have been physically improved and outfitted so that the students and young adults could get first class education in the technologies that will make Belize a productive country in the future.
The ruling UDP stands accused of bloating the cost of projects so that their favorite contractors can cream off. What is for sure is that Belize’s infrastructure is being developed, but there is little investment in the people. This means that the haves will be better able to exploit Belize, while the rest of the people (the have-nots) will be left by the roadside, gawking.
The US completes Black History Month
During this entire month, February, the children of the slaves in America (USA) have been honoring their ancestors, remembering their struggles to free themselves of the chains that were placed on their feet and minds by racist white folk, and noting their many contributions, as slaves, and as free men and women, to the richest and most powerful country on the planet.
The European Americans stole the lands of the Plains Indians, and they used the labor of people who were captured in Africa and made into slaves, to build it up.
Crystal Ponti, in a story that can be found at history.com, wrote that John Rolfe, a Virginia colonist, documented the arrival of English privateers on the ship White Lion in late August, 1619, with “20 and odd” Africans on board. The Africans were stolen from a ship named San Juan Bautista that left Africa with 350 captives, 150 of whom died in the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.
Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., said the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database revealed that between 1525 and 1866 around 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World, with 10.7 million surviving the dreaded Middle Passage and about 388,000 reaching North America.
Those 388,000 souls, and their children, and their children’s children would, for over 300 years, be the backs upon which the USA was built.
There were great kingdoms in Africa, Asia, and Arabia when the Europeans made a great leap forward, borrowing from the knowledge and wealth of Africa, Asia and Arabia. The Europeans learned how to make gunpowder from the Chinese, and they applied themselves to use it to propel bullets and cannon shots, weapons that they used to conquer the world. All serious historians recognize that it was the use of gunpowder in warfare, not superior intellect or hard work, that catapulted the Europeans to world leadership.
In the US, the African slaves labored in the rice and cotton fields, on the sugar plantations, on railroad construction, on every kind of job their owners wanted them to do, and their only wages were the clothes on their backs and whatever food their European owners gave to them.
The Europeans amassed tremendous wealth off the Black man and the Black woman who toiled in the fields of America, and the Indies.
Freed from hard labor and wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, the white race became the masters of the world. Their new wealth allowed them to educate their children full-time in universities, invest in the research that produced the Industrial Revolution, and make great scientific discoveries.
On Tuesday this week, Tom Steyer, a white Democrat who is seeking to become the president of the United States of America, spoke on the need of White America to make reparations to Black America for the crime of slavery. He told CBS News that White America has never told the truth about what happened.
Black Belizeans and the children of the slaves in America share a similar history. The children of the slaves who toiled here have fought their own struggles to liberate themselves from the horrible effects of slavery, the worst experience any people have gone through in this world.
We are a small country and most of our black brothers and sisters in the US, who have been separated from the Caribbean and Central/South America for hundreds of years, don’t know much about us, but we are very conscious of them. In Belize, we know of all the struggles of our kin in America, and we have adopted many of their heroes as our own.
Marcus Garvey, who visited Belize and established his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) organization here; and Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nat Turner, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, George Washington Carver, their great sports and music heroes, and many others, are more than just household names in Belize —we have supported and prayed for them in their great struggle to liberate our brothers and sisters over there.
Today, we salute our black brothers and sisters in the USA, and the children of the African slaves all over the world. Taking some liberty with the words of the great Caribbean musician, Black Stalin, the Caribbean black man and the American black man are one race, from the same place; we made the same trip, on the same ship.