By Benjamin Flowers
Without approval from Central Government, the Belize City Council will not be able to complete many of its infrastructure projects during this term, Mayor Darrell Bradley told the Reporter this week.
Bradley, in an exclusive sit-down with the Reporter, explained that a clause in the municipal bond allows for CitCo to re-float it every two years to receive an additional $2 million, with an upgrade to $10 million after five years. After several requests, however, he has not gotten Central Government’s approval to do so.
He noted that the first date for re-floating should have been in December 2014, when he initially made the request. He has since made three more requests with no success, he explained.
Bradley said that the design of the bond was to do a rapid set of projects, followed by smaller projects using the funds from the re-float. Initially, CitCo completed 150 streets and several other projects using the $20 million bond.
“Continuing on, I don’t think that every two years you need to do 150 streets, if you do like 10 or 20 streets per year. There aren’t that many streets in Belize City, so you’re gonna get the works done,” he said.
If CitCo does not get the re-float it could also lose out on much-needed funding to relocate City Hall to the Commercial Center. Bradley said that through an agreement with the Republic of China (Taiwan), the city can gain access to funding if it comes up with a portion to match what the Taiwanese are giving.
“Half of the re-float was to be for the Commercial Center and the other half for infrastructure projects,” Bradley said. “Right now they are giving us like US$700,000 and if we can’t come up with our part we will lose that money.”
Bradley also spoke about the toll booth he had proposed for the Philip Goldson Highway, saying the study which had been done indicated that a $1 toll would raise $98 million over 25 years. This, he said, would be able to pay for all the streets, drains and sidewalks in Belize City and Ladyville. The problem, however, is CitCo has no responsibility for highways and such a project would need to have Central Government’s approval and be carried out by the Ministry of Works.
When asked if he felt he isn’t being given the same level of support from Central Government in his second term as in his first, Bradley said: “I wouldn’t say we’re not getting the support but I would say things have to move easier. We’ve gotten a tremendous amount of support from the Central Government, we continue to get a tremendous amount of support but…the municipal bond should be allowed to work in the way it was intended. Those are things that would ensure that the municipality becomes more autonomous.”
Despite taking on the municipal bond the city has managed to meet its debt service requirements, though not getting subvention or head tax; and meet its payroll, having taken on 240 additional staff without operating in overdraft.