By William Ysaguirre
Prime Minister Dean Barrow toasted to a future continuance of Belize’s long-lived friendship and goodwill cooperation with the Republic of China on Taiwan when he and Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington were honored guests at the Embassy’s celebration of Taiwan’s 104th anniversary of its National Day. The celebration was held at the Best Western Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City last Thursday night, October 8.
For his part, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Belize, H.E. Benjamin Ho pledged his commitment to Taiwan’s continued mutual assistance and cooperation with Belize.
Ambassador Ho highlighted the many areas in which Belize and Taiwan have joined forces; since diplomatic relations betweenthe two countries were established in 1989, under the guiding principles of “mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual assistance”.
He noted that Taiwan’s bilateral cooperation with Belize has focused on five areas: infrastructural development, technical cooperation, information and communications technology (ICT), human resource training and medical cooperation.
Taiwan has assisted Belize with the paving of parts of the Southern highway, the fourth phase of paving the highway from Santa Elena to Benque Viejo and the Southside Belize City Poverty alleviation project.
Technical support for Belize’s agricultural sector has included the building of a Tilapia hatchery at Central Farm, with technical support for all Belizean farms venturing into this field, and the upcoming project to improve the stock of Belize’s sheep herds.
Taiwan is also cooperating in the elimination of citrus greening disease (Huang Long Bing) for the entire Central American region though OIRSA.
Taiwan’s ICT support for Belize saw President Ma Ying Jeou break ground for Belize’s first ICT center in Belmopan during his visit to Belize in 2009.
That ICT center has now been completed and handed over to the Government of Belize, to become our Central Information and Technology Office (CITO), which achieved international certification ISO-27001 for its information security in June of this year.
Under the directorship of Mrs. Michelle Longsworth, CITO is now moving Belize forward towards e-government, creating modules for Belize’s Customs, Police and Transport departments.
Ambassador Ho drew another parallel to Belize when he noted that President Ma’s two terms in office are coming to an end; as Taiwan’s voters go to the polls to elect a new president next January.
The development of Belize’s human resources has also been paramount with Taiwan providing, on average, 26 university scholarships per year for Belizeans to study in Taiwan.
So far 150 of these recipients have already returned to make an important contribution to Belize’s development, while some 130 Belizeans students remain studying in Taiwan.
Belize and Taiwan have also signed a medical cooperation agreement to improve medical services and facilities as well as the training of medical staff.
Taiwan has also helped to stimulate the development of Belize’s economy in other ways, encouraging entrepreneurship through funding for a business management training program for young entrepreneurs and small to micro-businesses, with as much as US$7,000 start-up capital for each new entrepreneur.
Ambassador Ho also noted that Taiwan continues to help strengthen Belize’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Central American Integration System (SICA) and is also helping fund a Climate Change Resilience Project for Dangriga, in cooperation with the Pan American Development Fund.
Assistance from Taiwan has not only come through official channels; as a Taiwanese medical team from the Fare Eastern Memorial Hospital was also in Belize last week providing free medical care for Belizeans. Other private hospitals have donated a container load of medical equipment for the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.
Students from the Tsing Hua University have for several years now also contributed volunteer work in computer instruction to many schools in the Cayo district, with the donation of 90 desktop computers and laptops to these schools; and in one case they even provided solar panels for a village school to have electricity to be able to use this equipment. Partnerships with municipal governments have also resulted in Taiwan’s biggest port, Kaoshiung City, donating two garbage trucks to the Belize City Council; and the list of continued cooperation goes on.