On Thursday the last project under the phase one of the Municipal development project was finally handed over by the Social Investment Fund to the Dangriga Town Council . The project was launched in May of 2012 and was slated to be completed a little over a year later; however it was plagued with many setbacks including change in Contractor, several firings of high ranking SIF officials, and reallocation of financing in order for the market to be completed.
SIF’s new Director , William Lamb, picked up the project halfway through and brought it to the point where it is at handing over time.
“The Market Project entailed the rehabilitation of this existing portion, as you all well know, to replace the dilapidated doors, windows, to install a new electrical system, a plumbing system, and upgrade the overall workability of the building.
The new building is approximately two thousand square feet, and has twenty-two stalls for the clothing vendors that occupied the parking lot of the market.
The Market was designed in a healthy environment, with the introduction of stainless steel facilities for the vegetable section, the food section, meat and fish sections.”
The refurbished facility also now includes a concrete addition at the back with additional stalls, waste water treatment for contaminated water, and higher roofs for a cooler structure, fencing, a security booth and additional male and female bathrooms.
While SIF says that Thursday also began a 12 month Defects Liability Period where the contractor must fix any defects, Mayor Gilbert Swaso accepted the Market and signed the handing over documents, but on condition that various irregularities in construction be addressed in black and white.
After thirty months of waiting and $62,300 in contributions paid by Council to assist in completing the market, Mayor Swaso did not allow the opportunity to pass without stating some of the Town’s frustrations.
“Today marks the end of thirty months of pain, suffering, disrespect, and especially economic loss, and near death of our market and, by extension, our community.
Contracts signed by our National Government with the World Bank, that contract, ladies and gentlemen, Dangriga does not in any way or form ensure that the municipalities who will be beneficiaries, and who must pay their cash contribution, and who as a result of their participation in this project and have equity and a stake, shall benefit from employment from the same project.
Four hundred thousand dollars was taken from our Phase Two Project to rehabilitate our street, one point two miles. We have lost four hundred thousand dollars from that Phase Two Project, which was then placed onto Phase One for this Market to be completed, amidst all the turbulence.
Our Honourable Prime Minister refused to meet with your Mayor. SIF, the Minister of Economic Development and Finance, no one on behalf of SIF or on behalf of the Government of Belize had found it prudent, or have the empathy, to apologize to the people of Dangriga, for all the pain, the suffering, the disrespect, and economic loss.
I also firmly believe that our people, our Dangriga, will remember the truth that happened here. They will remember the pain. Our people will remember the suffering that you have caused them to ensure.”
With the Market vendors losing 25% of their revenue because of delays, and the Town Council’s collections falling by 30%, Mayor Swaso concluded his fiery remarks by stating that it is time to move on and the town must make proper use of the market.
Mayor Gilbert Swaso
“Let us today, in accepting this Market, with the defects that will be rectified, let us commit that we shall do all that we can to ensure that our Market will be well maintained.
Ladies and gentlemen, in accepting this Market, let the healing process begin. Let it commence. We are grateful for all the pain. We are grateful for the improved Market that we are seeing. Our people deserves just that and more.”
The speaker who took to the microphone next was Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Hon Santino Castillo, under whose portfolio the Social Investment fund lies. He opened his comments by stating that, because of the Mayor’s remarks, he was forced to also be political in his own comments.
“His Worship never did ask to meet with me at any time, and I am the Minister under which SIF falls, not the Prime Minister. So let me take this opportunity to offer my profound apology to the people of Dangriga, for the inconvenience caused by the unfortunate delay in the completion of the Market, due to problems with the original contractor. I respectfully thank you for your patience.
However man, in construction, I’ve been in business for so long that I’ve had contractors that tell me a building is done for two million, and it ends up at two and a half million. And indeed, one contractor could tell you he could build this for half a million and the next one would take eight hundred thousand to build it.
Do we have a perfect system at SIF? No. Are we working to devise a better system? You bet we are.
A new Market Facility implemented by the Belize Social Investment Fund is the largest infrastructure development under the Government’s BMDP, Belize Municipal Development Project.
Out of the thirty million dollars, we spent one point eight million dollars in Dangriga. Maybe it could have been one [point] four. Maybe it could have been one five. Maybe it could have been one nine. It is what it is. It’s one eight, and the Market is here today, and again I offer my apologies for the delay.
Dangriga, ladies and gentlemen, at this Market there is one thing I am sure will always be served free of cost, in abundance. It’s the heart and soul of the community.
I’ve been coming to Dangriga from when I was a little boy. I then came with Santino’s Messengers and had many a jump up, here in Dangriga.
And if one thing Dangrigans have, it is soul.
Hence your new Market will no doubt continue the tradition of generosity, and will serve as a central meeting place for the people of Dangriga, to interact and take meaningful opportunities in the pursuit of continued development, regardless of your colour, red or blue.”
After brief comments by the MC, the atmosphere returned to the regular pomp and circumstance, as the individuals then walked to the front of the market, cut the ribbons and entered the refurbished facility, followed by a throng of Dangriga residents, eager to see the renovated facility.
Phase two of the Belize Municipal Development Project for Dangriga involves the upgrading of Gadsby Ramos Street and Trucking Boulevard.