US$45 Million Loan Agreement with Saudi Fund for Development Debated in the Senate

US$45 Million Loan Agreement with Saudi Fund for Development Debated in the Senate

Following the DFC loan motion came the Saudi Loan Agreement. The Saudi Loan Agreement is geared towards the construction of a tertiary level care hospital in Belmopan. The Government of Belize is borrowing some forty five million US dollars for the hospital which is said to serve as a backup for the KHMH, as well as a teaching hospital. UDP Senator Michael Peyrefitte did not focus on the amount of the loan, but rather the terms of the loan that limits Belize from having a say in who consults in the project, among other issues.

Michael Peyrefitte, Senator: “Look at some of the clauses in this agreement. I don’t know if the government thought we weren’t going to read it but look at section 303, let’s start with that. It says that the borrower shall cause the executing agency so Belize will make sure that the executing agency who is the Ministry of Economic Development, the government will make sure that the ministry employs qualified and experienced Saudi consultants or joint venture of Saudi Belize consulting offices acceptable to them – the Saudis – in order to assist in project tendering and supervision of the execution of the project. So they are lending us the money and in typical vampire ways we have to hire them to consult and they have to approve all who will work on this hospital. We don’t even have independence when it comes to this loan and we have to pay this back. Remember you know madam president when you add this and the $20 million we passed just today government will be for the next years another $110 million in debt you know. And we can’t even spend the money on ourselves, we can’t in this instance decide that we want to put the money here and there that will benefit the economy overall, no ! Mohammed bin Salman will have to approve how we spend this and this is a loan this is not a gift. But it gets worse Madam President. If you look at section 307 2 the borrower- government – will make sure the executing agency who is the Ministry of Economic Development affords all reasonable opportunity for the accredited representatives of the fund to make visits for the purposes of related to the loan to examine the project, the goods and services financed out of the proceeds of the loan and any relevant document records and document. 3. to furnish to the fund all such information as the fund shall reasonably request concerning the project, the expenditure and the goods and services financed out of the proceeds. They want to know what you are buying, who you are hiring, they want to know everything. But look at the 2. We then will make sure that we have to accommodate them when they visit the project and we pay for that. So when they come to say let’s come and see how this project is going we have to pay for them to come in and if they choose to come in the same private jet that they came in the other day to come and sign the loan you could imagine what the bill would be because that has to come out of the loan. Man what kind of craziness is this?”  

Based on the terms of the loan agreement, Senator for the NGOs, Janelle Chanona, rose with some queries.

Janelle Chanona, Senator: “For us the number that was very scary is actually at schedule two on page ten of the loan agreement and I’ve seen it also in the international coverage where it’s saying that the hospital will benefit approximately 200,000 citizens per year. Now madam president our concern is that a tertiary care hospital is specialist care, we are talking about cancer, we are talking about you are already in dire straits when you need tertiary care and this is anticipating a significant chunk of our productive sector needing annually tertiary level care and we have questions in terms of does this represent a shift from the emphasis on primary care preventative care now that we are investing in tertiary level care health systems and what this does also in terms of there was language I think in the other document the general conditions but certainly in the press coverage that this was anticipated not just to be a teaching hospital but also for employment and investment opportunities in healthcare. I wasn’t sure how this would then impact over and beyond the public system the private healthcare system and the investments that have also been made to some extent via taxpayers’ dollars in private tertiary level institutions. So the question is is it that we are actually expecting 200,000 of our fellow citizens to be able to afford but not only afford but to require tertiary level care on an annual basis and that’s the justification in part for establishing this institution because that does to our representatives that it does stoke a large concern for us given what we are seeing in terms of even trouble and I take this opportunity if you allow me to I mean I think we are all emotionally affected by that teacher who passed away in that tragic fire not even being in a position to afford for the payment of her child who died sadly along with her and its sibling. So it just raises real concerns there and I hope that we will be provided with the context for this. I don’t know if there is a larger paper that went into the cost benefit of this facility, this investment that justifies this number of 200,000 citizens requiring access to this facility.” 

Also commenting on the plans to construct a new hospital in Belmopan was Senator for the private sector, Kevin Herrera. According to Herrera, while he has thought about the lack of a proper facility in times of disasters, there are other factors to consider.

Also commenting on the plans to construct a new hospital in Belmopan was Senator for the private sector, Kevin Herrera. According to Herrera, while he has thought about the lack of a proper facility in times of disasters, there are other factors to consider.

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