Loan motion for new STEAM academy reaches the Senate

Loan motion for new STEAM academy reaches the Senate

Belize’s first STEAM Academy, Itz’at, will open come next month.  The loan motion of fifteen US dollars was tabled in the House Meeting last month and made its way to the Senate meeting today.  While the Senators praised the idea and the progress in education, UDP’s Michael Peyrefitte objected to the idea of yet another loan.

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, UDP: “This is my narrow issue on the matter. And I say this, as I said in the last meeting for other bills. Why do we insist on borrowing for these things? Why would we need to borrow for such a fundamental thing? You’re talking about $30 million Madam President. If you chop that the way the loan is supposed to be disbursed in four different, over a period of four years, just assuming. it’s seven and a half million dollars per year, just assume that, can’t we budget for that? Can’t we do a simple, the things that we see budgeted for the useless things that we see get budgeted $10, $15 million? I mean, can’t we budget $7.5 million per year for this? It tells me, Madam President, that there is either a lack of planning and/or the government is not performing the way it claims it’s performing to be earning enough government revenue to fund something like this which is seven and a half million dollars a year. Something like this to find seven and a half million dollars for in your budget should be a priority. It should be a priority. We shouldn’t be borrowing for something like this. We are over seven hundred million dollars in borrowing, you know, Madam President, since November 2020. When you look at all these money bills that come here for loans from all over the place, over $700 million. And all this does is add to that debt count.”

Senator for the private sector, Kevin Herrera, who supported the loan motion, rose to speak on the need to have young persons place more value on education.

Kevin Herrera, Senator for Business Community: “I think it’s extremely impressive to be addressing some of these critical areas necessary in education. You look at primary school, primary education training for teachers, extremely critical. Training special needs. The what they call the fourth industrial revolution which is basically looking at the future in terms of where it’s going with respect to technology. STEAM as opposed to STEM, I think is extremely important to just add the arts into that. I think that our education system has to be a very wide umbrella, Madam President. I think for too long, we’ve had a one size fits all in education so it’s either business or science and very narrow areas in science. But there’s so many of our young people who want to be professional singers, professional in the visual arts and the other areas. And so I think we need to make sure that we can accommodate those desires and those ambitions, Madam President. So I think it’s an extremely important important initiative and I know that we’re talking about 15 million US dollars for this program but I really believe that when it comes to education, when it comes to training for the future, when we’re talking about our young people, I think those are certainly monies I think we need to afford.” 

Senator Luis Luke Martinez: “The ITVET teachers are struggling with their salaries. They are struggling with the fact that some of them continue to work as contract teachers. And at some point, Madam President, we need to ensure that they are permanently established as teachers at these IVETS. We support the motion but we want them to ensure that they follow and they abide by it. Because if there is any sign of corruption, that bucket is going to sink and it’s not going to see the top of the well.”

The loan was ratified by the Senate.

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