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Financial assessment by Julius Espat in his Ministry

When the media spoke to several of the government ministers this morning one of their primary concerns had to do with the financial situation in each of their ministries and how they plan to address the problems.  In the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Julius Espat explained that he first needs to make an analysis of what the real situation is.

Hon. Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development: “I did a fast analysis over the weekend and what you just said is exactly true, the report that we got is the Ministry has not functioned for twelve years and so- but looking at the bright side it gives us an opportunity to make sure that it works. It is in line with my career as a professional so it will be a little bit easier to chart it forward. I plan to sit with all the organizations: the architect’s organization, the engineer’s association, the contractor’s association, the planner’s association to get an idea from them what the vision is. We have a mandate from the Prime Minister to start building houses so that would be one of the first things we need to look at. Also the architects and engineers and the professionals in general have been clamoring for the codes which are not in place. We have to look at legislation when it comes to the Building Act, there’s a lot of work to be done. It won’t be overnight but our team is ready and I think the amalgamation of housing with works is also a positive thing. Right now to be able to do what we are planning to do properly we need a little bit of time to plan properly. I think the problem in Belize is that the electorate expects that things happen immediately but for it to be done properly we need some time to be able to put it in place, analyze what went wrong in the past or analyze the good things that they have done in the past and try to chart the way forward. I wouldn’t want to give you a time frame that is a political rhetoric I really want to go in- I haven’t been in office as yet we plan to go in tomorrow morning, this afternoon we have our first Cabinet meeting so I’ll be given instructions as what needs to be done but I’ll keep you guys informed. We’ll try to be as transparent as we possibly can.”

Espat says they carried out an informal analysis of his ministry over the weekend and found that several persons are on the payroll who are not showing up to work.

Hon. Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development:Coming from the private sector financial constraints are always something that we deal with on an everyday basis but I don’t know to the extent where we are. As I said over the weekend we did an analysis, I spoke to some of the professionals within the two ministries and it doesn’t look to good; equipment wise in the Ministry of Works it seems we don’t really have anything. We seem to have a lot of ghost workers that are on payrolls but haven’t been to work for quite a long time so those are the things we have to look at and we have had issues over the weekend that they’ve tried to sell and take out products and equipment that are for the Ministry of Works who is for the people of Belize so we’ve put a temporary halt to that until we can possibly go in and deal with- we’re dealing directly with the professionals at the Ministry of Works right now. We are in contact communication with the chief engineer and the second engineer for him but as to the financial constraints I won’t be able to answer that until I find out what’s there. The focus of the Ministry of Works has to change. We’ve gone through twelve years of major major investment in infrastructure some of them that we don’t believe and that we’ve said are not priority. I think the change has to be that we have to start maintaining what we have. I got a report that the southern highway if it’s not maintained properly in a certain period of time we’ll probably have to build it again so I think the emphasis has to change. It’s not the building of new but it’s the holding on, maintaining and making sure that what you have is up to standard. The first project we’ll have to do is the St.Matthews mile 38 problem that we have on the Western Highway that’s a priority because that’s the main corridor leading to Belmopan from most directions. So we have to be pragmatic, we’ll be doing a priority list, we definitely have to be sitting with the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Finance to see what leverage we have but the Ministry that we are responsible for has to have some level of financing to get the work done it can’t be just that there’s no finance to do it that means the whole country is in chaos and collapse and so I am optimistic.”