The Senate also debated the government’s additional loan of seven million US dollars from the inter-American Development Bank for the George Price Highway Rehabilitation Project. The money is an additional sum to the 27 million US dollars that the Government had received as loan for the George Price Highway Rehabilitation Project back in 2015. That project encompasses three components including civil works and maintenance, institutional strengthening, and engineering and administration. But Prime Minister Dean Barrow indicated during the last House Meeting that the original loan is not sufficient to execute all related components. Several concerns were raised at today’s Senate meeting surrounding the additional loan. Senators Mark Lizaragga, Michael Peyrefitte, Aldo Salazar and Valerie Woods discussed the loan.
Mark Lizarraga Senator Business Community: “Mr. President I am sorry. In the absence of actual contract document so that we can know exactly what these monies are being spent on there is absolutely no way that I can lend my support to this loan. We are supposed to be doing things differently or at least that is what we were promised, that is what we were promised that this project would have this new level of oversight and controls and what we have seen to date is we have seen $2 million spent on plans that are no good, we haven’t even completed five miles of road and yet you are coming back already and asking for $14 million more and now the total sum of this road is some $81 million for 19 miles of road. Noh man, there comes a time where you have to say enough is enough and then you have people in the Lower House saying the monies will be used for one thing and then we have documents in the Upper House in the Senate saying the monies is going to be used for something completely different so which one of them is wrong? But yet we keep borrowing and borrowing and we are expected to approve and approve and approve. No accountability, no transparency, we don’t know what it is that we are going to be getting for that $81 million. I cannot tell you as member of this house what exactly we are going to get and where we are going to get it and then the people that you would think; I am disappointed in the IDB I will tell you that because they have so many controls, so many systems in place when they lend the money and yet when I brought it to their attention they do not have the courtesy, yes they wanted to talk about what they wanted to talk and they promised they would set up a meeting with me to deal specifically with that issue and I am still waiting on that and I put it on record and and I am disappointed in the CEO of the Ministry of Works too for the countless calls I have made to his Secretary and his office and I haven’t gotten response. So my good friends we can continue to burden the Belizean people with debt but I am not going to be apart of it.
Michael Peyrefitte: “Any Senator in this Senate who does not have the information that they say they want they really don’t want that information but it’s convenient to come here and give the public the impression like this is some Gestapo Government running with so much secrets behind closed doors, no man if you wanted a contract for this, contract for that, if it exist sir you are entitled to have it not just a Belizean and as a member of the public but indeed a member of the Upper House. Write to the President of the Senate and say under the Freedom of Information Act I would like to have this contract with whatever contractors are involved and the Government has to provide it for you so stop coming here and saying you don’t have information sir.
Aldo Salazar UDP Senator: “That design as far as I understand was sent out at a considerable cost yes but it was sent to a qualified bridge designer, that has nothing to do with the Government of Belize. The selection of that design wasn’t done by the Government of Belize so if there was a mistake with the design, that is not our fault, that is not the Government’s fault. My understanding is what is before us in order to deal with land acquisition. Now the figure sounds high $80 something million right but from what I understand if anybody who goes to San Ignacio can appreciate that there is significant value there in land, if you are going to acquire land along that road you are going to pay a hefty price for it and because it is an international lender the values are going to have to be at market value as far as I understand and this has to be settled without dispute so for my part I think it is unfair to lay the fault for the bridge design on Government, it’s not Government’s fault and I am not sure that a request was here to make up for cost of the bridge in any event so I don’t think this matter is dealing with that in anyway.
Valerie Woods PUP, Senator: “I am also a little bit concerned because if it is another loan contract $14 million US who is that is overseeing this because I am not aware that there is a Contractor General yet that has been reinstated and the other point is obviously it begs the question; I don’t think anyone should be surprised in any event at the questions coming up because this Senate has looked at other various road projects and have had to deal with some scandals before and notably the one of the Lake Eye Blvd so when you do the addition of what a cost of a mile is and now you look at his whole 19.4 mile stretch it brings those concerns so I can appreciate the questions being raised.
Following a lengthy debate, the bill was passed in the Senate.