Project leaders for the Belize Municipal Development Project (BMDP) held a consultation with the residents of the Twin Towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena on November 15. The event was held at the Center for Employment Training in San Ignacio Town. Present for the meeting was the Mayor of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, John August and some of his Councilors, along with other community members. The purpose of the meeting was to hear from the community what recommended projects were to be undertaken under phase two of the BMDP.
“We are hoping that under phase (two), as the gathering has so recommended, that most streets will be rehabilitated and that even consideration will be given to the upgrade of the (San Ignacio) market. However, at the end of the day it will be the amount of monies available that will determine how many of those recommended sub projects can be attempted”, said Ernest Raymond, Project Coordinator of the BMDP.
Under Phase One of the BMDP, major works in infrastructure has already been done in the Twin Towns, which included the improvements to 18th Street and West Street in San Ignacio. Indeed, so much work is ongoing under Phase One, that Mayor John August has called on the Twin Towns to bear patience as he is fully aware that the these projects cause disruptions to traffic but in the end, everyone in the municipality will benefit.
Computers have also been provided under Phase One to the San Ignacio and Santa Elena Town Council, along with updated accounting software.
As the BMDP seeks to invest in municipal infrastructure, provide technical assistance and along with it to train personnel from Towns, City Councils and Central Government, the World Bank, as a funding source, has laid out several stringent prerequisites. Some of these are that the Councils develop an asset maintenance plan and hold public consultations. (Asset maintenance has to be sustainable.)
That sense of public participation was most noteworthy last Thursday at CET in San Ignacio as the people voted, by a show of hands, which roads were to be selected for major improvements. Juan Polanco, Town Planner for the Twin Towns was present to advise that any such street selected, should take into consideration traffic and pedestrian safety. Proposed for upgrading, among others, were Carmelita Street in San Igncio and Bishop Martin Street and Salazar Street in Santa Elena. Valan Hyde, Human Resources Officer within the San Ignacio Town Council called for equity in the distribution of these resources in the Towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena.
Funds will be allocated to the seven municipalities under Phase Two within the BMDP following the rigors of a formula developed by renowned economist, Dr. Carla Barnett. This formula has as its variables area (10%), levels of infrastructure development (20%), financial performance (15%) and levels of need (20%). Other values in the equation are population size (20%) and population growth rate (15%) and for these two, the Twin Towns figure prominently. According to Evan Dakers, Social Officer within the BMDP Project, San Ignacio and Santa Elena are only second in size to Belize City and “…one of the fastest growing in Belize.”
The forward thrust to the BMDP comes from a $30 million loan from the World Bank, which is being implemented by the Social Investment Fund SIF. Last Thursday’s consultation in Cayo fulfill a project requirement to obtain broad based inputs.