It is likely safe to assume that most business professionals, academics and policy makers would agree that the “school is out” on whether or not there is a positive link between infrastructure development and a country’s overall economic growth.
More specifically, some studies have (including Bom and Ligthart, 2009) gone as far as to assess the size of the contribution that infrastructure has on economic growth.
While there may be lingering debates over whether or not there is a threshold (growth-maximizing level) as it pertains to infrastructure (road networks, electricity, telecommunications, water supply, etcetera)—especially as we account for the unique, country-specific factors—the salient point remains that a young developing country such as Belize that wishes to accelerate its rate of private-sector development and export growth can only benefit from adequate investments in this area.
The saying “who feels it, knows it” also rings true here, as this is, yet again, a point that has been repeatedly raised by Belize’s private sector representatives. In particular, 56 percent of Belize’s private sector representatives who participated in the World Bank’s Enterprise Survey in 2011 identified one constituent of infrastructure—transportation—as a major constraint.
It is for this reason that this week’s “Strictly Business” takes a closer look at the government’s steps towards the development of a Comprehensive National Transportation Master Plan (CNTMP), which, like all things related to Economic Development Council (EDC)’s mandate, is geared towards the overarching goal of improving the business climate and the competitiveness of Belizean businesses.
Given the EDC’s aforementioned function, its Secretariat, the Department of Public and Private Sector Dialogue (PPD), and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) are the lead executing agencies for the development of the CNTMP.
Naturally, the PPD and the OPM shall work in close collaboration with several other government bodies, including The Ministry of Works, The Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture, and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, to name a few.
The widespread inter-ministerial collaboration is not only a reflection of the comprehensiveness of the plan, but is also deemed necessary from a technical standpoint. It is also essential as it pertains to the facilitation of the requisite public consultations and stakeholder workshops.
In particular, the overall goal of the master plan is to promote the further development of a “Belizean transport sector that contributes to sustainable economic and social development,” Amparo Masson, the chief executive officer in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Commerce, explained.
Masson, who is also the former director of the PPD, added that there are four main aims the CNTMP, once completed, is expected to pursue.
“First, it is aimed at promoting economic growth, especially in the agriculture and tourism sectors, by reducing costs. The cost-reduction function of improved transportation infrastructure is indispensable in terms of facilitating domestic and international trade.”
Another objective is to achieve an environment in which public mobility and access to markets, employment, and more are significantly improved.
A third goal is to help in the country’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
“The final aim of the master plan will be to ensure the institutional, environmental, and financial sustainability of transport services within the country,” she added.
Masson also emphasized that the comprehensive nature of the CNTMP also requires the involvement of a wide range of technical professionals in its development.
“A Project Steering Committeewill be developed to oversee the strategic direction of the project,” she shared. “We are also forming three Technical Work Groups and a Project Executing Unit, which—among other personnel, will staff a transportation specialist.”
She elucidated that each of the technical working groups will be responsible for specific aspects of the CNTMP’s aforementioned objectives.
“Specifically, one working group shall focus on Infrastructure; a second is responsible for ports, airports, and overall transportation; and the third is expected to focus on climate-change and the relevant environmental factors.”
While the EDC is still in the “groundwork” phases of the CNTMP’s development, Masson clearly stated that the EDC and the government are committed to the development of an adequate business environment, which includes an improved the transportation framework.
About the EDC
The Economic Development Council (EDC) serves as the principal liaison body between the public and private sectors.It is designed to advocate for, plan, and coordinate the institutionalization of policy reforms that engender the business- and investment-friendly environment suitable for Belize’s private sector development and overall economic growth.
The EDC executes its function by maintaining constant and open communication with both sectors via its technical unit, the Public-Private Sector Dialogue, which is housed in the Office of the Prime Minister.