Every five years or so we choose a party to govern based on a manifesto they present to the electorate before the election. The brain trust of the party that wins then sets about implementing the projects they promised.
The way it should work, if we will tap into all our available talent, is that the party that wins would draw ideas from all over, not just from the party’s close affiliates. The public would be invited to weigh in on proposed projects. When the projects go to the House of Representatives for approval, what the Cabinet puts forward would be thoroughly debated. Decisions made by the House would also get the fine-tooth comb at the Senate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, and that is why we end up with so many disappointing projects.
The UDP newspaper, the Guardian, is touting the new road between the George Price Highway and the Philip Goldson Highway as an “alternative to persons who want to move between the two major international highways.” The Guardian says the need for this new road, Link Road, they call it, was made evident this week when a vehicle carrying piles broke down at the approach to the Haulover Bridge, backing up traffic for “the better part of two hours.” The newspaper noted that the construction of a new Haulover Bridge is to begin in the next few weeks.
The Link Road “will connect the George Price Highway at Mile 8 with the Philip Goldson Highway near to the airport in Ladyville (and) the road is approximately 8 kilometers (approx. 5 miles) in length”, the Guardian said. The cost of the project is $34 million.
We are not aware that the party in power asked members of the public for any suggestions about this project. And based on the way the system works, or, rather, the way the government works the system, we can conclude that it was probably brought to Cabinet one Tuesday morning and when the group broke for lunch it was a done deal.
This road is not a complete dud, but its utility is tarnished by extravagance and bloat. There already is a link road, the Burrell Boom Road, for persons coming from the north of the country who want to go to the south of the country, or the other way around, and this road will be of no use to them.
There is heavy traffic between Belize City and Ladyville every morning and evening, and as the UDP government’s Guardian said, this road will provide an alternative route if there is any blockage on the main highway. It will also be of use to commuters from these two areas if they want to avoid the hectic traffic and are willing to travel an extra 3 miles or so.
The UDP newspaper mentioned that the construction of the new Haulover Bridge is about to commence, but this is not a selling point for the Link Road because the old Haulover Bridge will not be taken down. In its news report of May 29, 2014, 7News reported that Ministry of Works CEO, Mr. Errol Gentle, told them the old bridge would be rehabilitated before it was removed, and that the new bridge would be built beside it.
There was absolutely no need for Belize to invest all of $34 million on a road that really is just a relief valve if there is trouble on the major highways. The Ministry of Works CEO said the old Haulover Bridge was destined for another crossing after the new one was built. Was it intended for this Link Road? If the Link Road is just a relief valve, why was a basic country road (compacted gravel) not sufficient at this time? Can the Belizean people be blamed if they consider this project extravagant and quite likely a hustle? It’s borrowed money. That means that we, the people, have to pay it back.
Leaders must make decisions and effective leaders make good decisions when the public is informed and there are discussions that culminate in the best ideas being put forward. After decisions are made on the projects that will see Belize advance for the good of all, there must be transparency and accountability in the execution of the projects.
The people who hatched the Link Road sidestepped the talent pool of the nation so that a small clique could show that they are smarter than all the rest of us, combined, or bloat a project so they could skim the people’s money. That is the rot in this Link Road.
BBB makes urgent call for reform
The Belize Business Bureau (BBB), a recognized business organization that along with the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) selects the individual who represents the business sector in the Senate, has made a call for the Government of Belize to change its economic focus and the way it handles the people’s affairs.
The BBB, in a press release titled “Land reform and investment in children” that was published in the Amandala of November 12, 2019, called for an overhaul, radical changes, to get us out of our crushing poverty.
Among their many recommendations, the BBB said that large landowners who can’t or won’t pay their taxes must give back land to the government, and the government must make sure that this land goes to young farmers and young families who are born Belizeans. The BBB says more investment must be made in kindergartens, and a government-funded program must provide wholesome food for all children up to the age of eight years. This wholesome food must be bought from our small farmers. There should be no more importation of Ramen.
Tourism isn’t sufficient to sustain our public wage bill, national debt, and non-contributory pension program, so our government must steer us into more manufacturing and value-added agro-production, the BBB says.
The business organization says that those involved in the retail, distributive trade and food businesses must have a “true Belize-born certificate”, and “those placing franchises and hotels in Belize must be required to take on Belizean-born partners with meaningful shareholding participation.”
Most of these calls from the BBB are fundamental, the things any sincere government with basic foresight would have been implementing a long time ago. Regarding the last point — Belizean ownership of or participation in all businesses, it would not be disruptive for our government to insist that these requirements/recommendations be satisfied for any business wishing to operate in Belize in the future.