The Caribbean Development Bank Youth and Community Transformation Project Loan was debated in Monday’s Senate Meeting. This is a 5 million 200 thousand US dollar loan which is to be used to reduce vulnerability of children and youth to crime and gang membership in the Collet, Lake Independence, Pick Stock and Port Loyola Divisions of Belize. This is expected to be achieved by providing services to enhance the literacy and adaptive life-skills and support conflict mediation. Senator for the Business Community Mark Lizzaraga was first to withhold from supporting the bill today as they were not provided with substantial details of the project.
Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community:
Mr President, if the Senate is to meaningfully participate in debate, we must receive and be given ample time to review proposals or policies or plans that are presented in this House. Some large documents relating to motions or important and massive projects might need time and serious debate. Mr President, Section 63 of the Standing Orders and Section 78:1 of the Constitution, I believe, envisions the time for us to review and debate amendments. These sections, Mr President, as you know, applies to money bills, but I believe as well, in principle, they should apply to money matters, especially sums as large as this one.
In this case, Mister President, no such document was presented to us. Why were the project details not attached so that we could have meaningful and proper debate on the proposal? Can my colleagues who intend to vote yes for this money bill to pass today assure us that they have seen the proposals for disbursement and implementation of this project? How can we be expected to contribute or support such a noble endeavor if we do not know how the monies will be spent?
I humbly ask, Mr President that this motion be put on hold, until the details can be provided as best possible to this Honourable House, and that sufficient time be given as well for us to read it, to digest it, and to consult on it, before we are asked to support or not to support.
PUP Senator, the Hon. Karen Bodden followed suit; here are some of the reasons she gave for not supporting the bill.
Senator Karen Bodden:
Mr President, another concern as I look at the Motion, although it is being considered without having much detail. I am also asking the question, if we’re going to invest 10.4 million dollars, and we’re talking about reducing the vulnerability of children and youth to crime and gang membership in the Collet, Lake Independence, Pickstock, and Port Loyola Divisions of Belize City, are we then saying by this Motion that the children and young people living in the Albert, Mesopotamia, and Queen Square Division are less venerable? Are we then saying that they are less at risk? How are these Divisions selected for such an investment? Was there a baseline study identifying that these Divisions were the ones that needed urgent attention, while the other three on Southside, all of which of course were once described by Doctor Gayle as having a violent human ecology, and all divisions on the Southside, Mr President, were included in that description?
I am also looking at the fact that when you are dealing with the population being subscribed to in this Motion, there is a very urgent need for psychological support, for psychological capacity. In my mind I don’t think that I have sufficient information on either, for me to be able to offer my buy-in to the project. Additionally, Mr President, I am wondering, after doing an intensive review of the recent IDB report on Education in Belize, will this project be offered in conjunction with the Education System in Belize, and if so what alterations or modifications will be made, to make sure that both work successfully?
And then I look at the use of best practices among the participating agencies. And again, I am plagued by the question, what agencies are we referring to, and how do they become participating agencies? I am hearing about all the enhancement, and I am yet to identify whether or not we look, for example, at the whole spectrum of drug use among our young people, and what exactly we will get in terms of services out of this 10.4 million dollars to address that issue?
And then I look at the economic factor, because I see there’s an absence of that. So while we’re hoping to enhance literacy, and we’re hoping to reduce the vulnerability of at-risk children and young people, what support are we offering in terms of the state of the nation’s children when it comes to poverty, in terms of the state of the nation’s families when it comes to poverty that will make this project successful? We have been working with children over the years and many of us know that before you can even peak their interest in any project or in any program, you must first find a way to satisfy their basis needs.
Senator for the PUP the Hon. Lisa Shoman, also rejected the bill, while UDP Senator the Hon. Joy Grant stated her favor of the proposed project, stating that the IDB in their approval of the loan, conducted thorough research on the project as did stakeholders in Belize. And closing off the discussion was the Senator Hon. Godwin Hulse. He too favored the bill and responded to his colleagues grievances of not having a copy of the proposal.
Senator Godwin Hulse:
I have always lamented the fact when I represented the business community, that I would be given resolutions and motions without the details to be able to make a decision. But that lamentation came purely from the fact that prior tom coming to the Senate meeting I had always attempted to request the details, and the details were never forthcoming. For some reason I found them to be secret or dismissive or otherwise. So I had to stand in the Senate and lament the fact that I couldn’t get the details. Those of you who know me, and I’ve been here 12 years, know that I used to come, as I still do, with copious notes and copious details and analysis, much to the chagrin of much of my Senators who’d want to go home early. And they used to ask me, will Senator Hulse stop? I am absolutely certain, while I respect that the comment that the details were not attached, I also appreciated the comment that Sessional Paper which was laid on the table 71:1/12, which dealt with the Fort Road projects Santa Elena/San Ignacio by-pass Lot 4, was laid on the table. And I am absolutely certain that a request to the Honourable Clerk to the Ministry of Finance and the Financial Secretary would have resulted in a similar provision of the Document and its details. I take it under advisement.
Yes, Senator Bodden clearly outlined what is involved with respect to the young people etcetera. The reason for this is that these funds will be used partially to construct what would be called a Drop-in Centre somewhere, as I understand it, on Chetumal Street, which will serve those areas linking. There is also going to be a proposal to construct the bridge across Chetumal Street, and finish that piece of road coming from Fabers Road. Therefore along that boulevard there will be a facility constructed which will enhance the ability of young people to congregate, to work together, etcetera. That is fundamentally part of the proceeds of this loan. Consequently, that is why the area is so designed, because they’re linking in that area.