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Senators debate the Natural Disaster Loan Motion

Once the swearing-in and formalities were over, the Senate got down to business.  In today’s session, among the different motions discussed was the contingent loan for natural disasters emergencies from the Inter-American Development Bank. The loan would be for ten million US dollars earmarked for the execution of a project to alleviate the impact of severe natural disasters in Belize. The loan term would be for twenty-five years and would need to be repaid in thirty-nine semi-annual and consecutive installments of about just over a quarter-million US dollars.  While to most, the loan seems to serve a good purpose and would be beneficial to the people of Belize, to Senator Markhelm Lizarraga, it is a bit unrealistic.

Mark Lizarraga, Senator

Mark Lizarraga, Senator: “The Government of Belize is embarking on another loan today of some $20 million Belize dollars for what it calls is a “contingent loan facility for natural disaster emergencies”. And it identified five areas that it is targeting with these funds. It identifies disaster risk management governance and I can’t tell you what that means. It identifies risk identification, I can’t tell you what that means. Risk reduction, I can’t tell you what that means and how deep it goes because these are very open-ended. It says “disaster preparedness” and I can’t tell you what is the plan and it tells you “financial protection” and I don’t know in what areas and how. Unlike the previous loan motion that we saw that clearly articulated what these sums of money were going to used for, there is absolute silence in the documents that we were presented as to how and what is the strategy in each of the five areas and how much money will be intended for these areas. This morning as I was driving out of my home on the way up here I drove through Dean Street. Mr.President, I took this picture of Dean Street. This is Dean Street, we are in the middle of the dry season, to the best of my knowledge I sleep hard sometimes but I don’t think it rained last night, I don’t think it rained last night. We are not yet experiencing any effects of storms, hurricanes and Dean Street is flooded. We have been preparing for climate change. Yes I know what is high tide, I’m well aware of it, but here we are spending on these roads to nowhere, here we are spending and filling in hills on roads out here when all we needed were drains. Here we are spending left right and center in the middle of my city I didn’t know that in the middle of dry weather we have people walking through water and the rains haven’t come yet. What are we doing to address that before we are filling up hills on the Cayo road that didn’t need filling where all they needed was drains.”
Michael Peyrefitte, Senator

Michael Peyrefitte, Senator: “Mr.President on a point of order, that has nothing to do with the loan motion at hand. Debate the loan motion. Continue going Senator Lizarraga on all the radio stations every morning and pontificate, we are debating in the upper house the natural disaster loan motion, this is not a soap box. Mr.President I request that the senator stay within the loan motion debate man.”
Senator Lizarraga continued to lament his point, asking for transparency with borrowed funds, but Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte insisted that that was not relevant to the motion at hand.
Mark Lizarraga, Senator: “We know that Belize City is low. We know that not it but when the next storm comes, we will be in trouble, what are we doing to prepare for that man-made disaster? So Mr.President, we support initiatives but we have to be smart about the way we disburse our scarce resources. We have to be strategic, we can’t just be borrow and spend and borrow and spend to have more and more senseless projects all over the place. We have borrowed $80 million US dollars already for this Natural Disasters Emergencies and that there are priority areas- that’s the point I’m trying to make. 
Michael Peyrefitte, Senator: “On a point of order, you didn’t make comments, you are the chair you gave a directive to the senator to stick within. Thanks for your comments but nevertheless continue, you made an order Mr.President you are the chair.”
Darrell Bradley, President of the Senate: “Senator Lizarraga you can continue your discussion points, confine your matters to the subject matters of the motion.”
Mark Lizarraga, Senator: “We keep being promised that we will see the details of these spendings so that we can know, so that we can know what to expect from the spending of these hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent; whether it is under this natural disaster heading or any other heading and we still have not gotten those documents. I take this opportunity to ask and to plea, that these borrowings and spendings be human-centered and I’m making a plea for the people on the south side of Belize City who are having to walk through those streets that are flooded right now. So let’s do it and address those now, that is a disaster.”