The Government of Belize may have good and sufficient reason for regarding its Faber’s Road Project as an emergency undertaking, exempting it from the usual public tender procedure, but the decision is nonetheless regrettable. .
There are good reasons for requiring that all big tenders for public works go through the competitive process: ;
1. to give other competent contractors a chance to bid; ;
2. to ensure that the government is getting the best bang for its buck; ;
3. to contribute to the culture of transparency in government, and so avoid public and private resentment.
But there is another reason for contract procedures to be spic and span. Politicians learn by example and by precedent. If the Barrow government can do this, what is there to stop the next generation of government leaders from doing the same? Where does the cycle end?

Faber’s Road has indeed become a major artery of traffic, especially now that the Chetumal Street Bridge funnels traffic away from downtown to and from the busy Port of Belize. There is also no doubt at all that the road is in a deplorable state, unable to take the heavy pounding to which it has been subjected.

The work of rehabilitation is urgent! No doubt about it. But one or two months’ delay to follow a more transparent course in awarding the contract, worth some $8 million in this case would not have been fatal. It would have provided reassurance that the government is serious about transparency. Moreover, the expected October/November rains could force a delay in the start of operations anyway.

The government has scored points in showing that the cost of the work is realistic, pointing to the nature of the soil and the need to build the road high enough and strong enough to avoid seasonal flooding, and to stand up to the heavy traffic.
But the cost of the road is only part of the criticism. The main concern is that the public tender procedure was circumvented, and not for sufficiently good reasons!
The nations and organizations which help Belize with grants and loans look at these things and draw their own conclusions. We trust that the Barrow government will have better success convincing them than it has had convincing us. ;

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