On Thursday we reported that the Belize Bank had frozen a $112,000 overdraft facility used by the Orange Walk Town Council – or more accurately, the Council led by a majority UDP group from 2009-2012, as well as others. Mayor Kevin Bernard told us on Thursday that it severely hampers the Council’s financial position. We reproduce that portion of his interview.
Kevin Bernard – Mayor of Orange Walk
The Council cannot close down the town. We cannot close the operations and for us to be able to operate, we need to have access to our funds. So, if the bank does not release our funds, because if we do not get the support from the Ministry of Finance, then, we won’t be able to do anything. That means that the people’s garbage will be left there. That means that we cannot continue to fix streets; that means that we cannot continue to pay our employees. People will suffer. How will our employees then provide food for their family? What do we do about that? It’s a huge impact it will have on everybody…and this is the reason we are asking, we are pleading to the Ministry of Finance, to the Prime Minister to look at this issue as urgent as possible.
On Friday, member for Orange Walk Central John Briceno admitted that facility was in existence before the current administration but raised other issues of cooperation between the Central Government and the OWTC. He also compared the situation of smaller towns to the metropolis, Belize City, which despite the efforts of Mayor Darrell Bradley has a long way to go in terms of infrastructure particularly in the Southside. Prime Minister Dean Barrow responded by establishing the terms of future assistance to the OWTC.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
Mister Member for Orange Walk Central, I appreciate the explanation that you’ve tried to give on behalf of your Mayor. Nothing can erase the fact that he deliberately turned his back on that loan, you know, on the basis that it was a UDP loan. It now turns out, from what you are saying, that it was originally a PUP loan. In any case, I’m not going to retrace our steps. I am telling you sir, that if the Mayor can show me that in fact he’s spending the monies wisely, and that his administration is entirely transparent and above board, I am disposed to help. He hasn’t started off very well, because, of course, the cry was this morning central Government has to help us because we can’t pay the people. But by the end of the day, they did pay the people. So what, they’re trying to set us up to try and get money, by crying wolf?
After that chastisement the Prime Minister went on to discuss plans for paving streets in the town, taking a few more jabs along the way. OW
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
But in any event, that’s all he has to do, sir, and I will be more than disposed to help him. In fact, let me tell you something. Mister Speaker, after this it stops here. You and the Mayor said to the deputy Prime Minister, I believe in Independence Day or the 10th, that the Philip Goldson Highway, which in face acts as the main street of Orange Walk Town, is in need of repairs. I immediately sent the Ministry of Works out there to do an assessment, you know. I think one of the places that they say really needs to be fixed is by a certain gas station, that I believe you own. But what I want to tell you is this, the estimate for repairing those sections of the Highway is two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The Deputy has pointed out that they missed a spot by the taco stand. Well I am here to tell you sir, that they must go back now and see how much more it will cost to do that additional spot, and I shall immediately make the money available to repair that for you, and your Mayor, and the citizens of Orange Walk Town.