BABY MANATEE THRIVING!
The rescued manatee "Woody" found off Buttonwood Bay is doing well in Sarteneja. The young manatee is eating eight heads of lettuce and drinking five litres of milk a day. The rescue effort done by CZMAI is asking for donations. Telephone: (local 30719)
Can you afford a month's supply of lettuce and milk? If so, help now!
TREKFORCE Venturers out of the U.K., on a six month gig, mostly made up of student volunteers from Universities are living in rural jungle villages with host families. They have been teaching school, painting schools, building playgrounds, upgrading community center libraries. The very small libraries badly need donations of comic books for primary school village children. Such things do not exist in Belize and are fundamental fun type building blocks of reading, vocabulary building and comprehension. There are about 300 primary rural jungle village schools desperately in need of this segment of education at lower level primary school. A computer wouldn't hurt either, if you have one.
Volunteers say it has been a challenge over the past five months and real character building. People have been very friendly and nice.
Jemma Darly, volunteer says, "It's been tough adjusting, but I've had a good time and really, I don't want to go home to the U.K.. I love it here!"
Minister of Finance, Ralph Fonseca in his speechs over the last year has indicated that the debt service ratio of the nation under his guidance has increased from 15% of GDP to 34% of GDP. He also keeps saying the foreign debt is manageable. The Prime Minister and his cabinet ministers have long lists of work projects they want to accomplish and it is the job of the Finance Minister to keep the money flowing in, through hook or crook. The estimate now is that Belize is in debt to Foreign lenders for the next 26 to 34 years. When this cycle of spending is over, austerity is expected to rule under the UDP to pay off the debts. Particularly worrisome are the interest payments. Having to take loans out to pay off mounting compounding interest payments. But that is a couple of years away yet.
MINISTERS in the government that are coming in for praise, are the Minister of Tourism, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Customs. Their programs are working well. On the deficit side, are Minister of Finance, Ralph Fonseca and government spokesman, Norris Hall. From the volume of e-mails coming in to our office, both these men need to be promoted sideways out of the line of fire, if the PUP wish to get re-elected.
Norris Hall is getting lots of derogatory e-mails to our office. Don't know what he is doing, but it isn't good. Allegations range from racism, to intimidation, personal attacks, misuse of position to slander people, bullying and such. There are many suitable people could do the job nowadays, such as; Russel Vellos, Nigel Avilez, Gary Ayuso from the port town, Valentino Shal from Toledo, Wendy De Le Fuente from Caye Caulker and there must be many hundreds I don't know, able to do a good job as government spokesperson. Suggest you promote Norris sideways to Prime Minister's chauffeur, or something less exposed?
Minister Fonseca of Finance is another problem for the PUP. Again, the widespread general opinions coming into the office by e-mails and these include many dozens of people on the ground in Belize are allegations of intimidation, bullying, persecution, victimization and the general opinion, including the majority of the 120 on the Belize listserve, seem to think that the good Minister is a corrupt crook. Not a good thing for people to be thinking and if these allegations have any substance it does not bode well for the PUP party next elections. The bad news as always is overshadowing the good news of working PUP minister's perceived to be doing good jobs. It may be simply that Fonseca is an arrogant character by nature and secretive with nothing really crooked to hide? Certainly, he has not been caught yet personally at anything. But perceptions are everything and his inability to communicate with the public a detriment to the PUP party. Audberto Pariente, Harry Lawrence, Santiago Marin, and many hundreds of others would be a better Finance Minister, as also many sitting elected legislators. Maybe shifting Fonseca sideways to Warden of the Hattieville Prison as someone suggested, might be a good idea, where his organizing and budgetary talents could be put to better use?
The PUP party need a conclave of elected representatives and mid term need to tackle these party problems.
Two things seem to be coming out of the Corozal Free Trade Zone Elections. One was the news that a PUP contractor's sweatheart deal to build a road was overpriced twice the price of a Mennonite bidder subsequently denied, and the job is alleged to have been done shoddily with inadequate materials of a substandard nature.
The other thing is that the Government of Belize is mounting a takeover of the Corozal Free Trade Zone from the supposedly independent FREE merchants in the zone. I did not get the intricacies of the dealing and wheeling from media reports, but it does seem apparent that the Government of PUP are trying to take over the ZONE.
Free Trade Zones only provide jobs to a country. And the government gets more business activity in the surrounding area and personal income tax from FREE TRADE ZONES. They usually do not get anything else. But jobs are not to be sneezed at and the trickle down effect from such salaries and subsequent economic activity outside the zone. It would be a mistake for the Belmopan government of PUP to expect more and try to squeeze more out of such an entity.
BEL hired engineer and BSI engineers went to Guatemala to see a cogeneration plant using bagasse ( sugar cane waste). The Schauefffler report as it is called, resulting from this trip seems favorable. The problems seem to be with the speed that cane is processed and to keep a cogeneration plant going to produce commercial electricity to sell to BEL would mean an overhaul and upgrading of the whole sugar mill, which is apparently obsolete but working. Plus the investment in the electrical steam turbines necessary is another expense. One of the problems with Tower Hill is that it uses British Electricity which is 50 cycle and usually 220 volts. This problem kills a lot of investments in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean. Belize switched to North American style 110 volt, 60 cycle electricity many, many years ago. You cannot fit a host of apparatus to a 50 cycle phase electricity generator, that requires 60 cycle phase electricity. Belize for many years now has had North American electricity standards, not British like Tower Hill.
At heart are World Bank grants of up to $120 million available for alternative energy projects. Tower Hill would need a GRANT writer, and look to Belmopan for assistance in this field.
In the meantime, the investments would take millions. BSI the privately owned sugar factory want guarantees from privately owned BEL on price fixing and the contractual guaranteed ability to sell the electricity to BEL. Verbally BEL says there is no problem. But what do you write in a contract and for how long? Two years guarantee would be maximum expected in light of coming competitors. Therein lies the nub. The government is alleged to have set a minimum price for BEL, wherein the now privatized electrical sales outlet of electricity in Belize MUST buy electricity from any small producer that can produce electricity for the national distribution grid. We don't know the minimum price set by government. It is supposed to be about three cents USA per kilowatt hour. How accurate that figure is, we do not know? Government has never published any legislation governing prices that BEL must buy electricity at, from private electrical generating plants. I would think any such minimal price set by government for forcing BEL to buy private produced electricity for the national grid, would be set to some sort of sliding scale formula, based on what BEL can buy electricity from Mexico, or produce itself. Prices change over time, so it would require a percentage style fixed formula.
There is the consideration also, that competition and new technology and competing technologies will one day create a price war among electrical producers and the price of electricity will really drop to favor the consumers in Belize. Many other would be entrepreneurs are watching the Tower Hill situation carefully. While Tower Hill has tons of waste bagasse material that can be turned into electricity for a profit, how much would that profit be, from a venture capitalist viewpoint? If they are successful, and someone decides to put in a set of huge megawatt windmills based on the results of the Tower Hill operation would there be a problem of selling to BEL in competition? How about some guy just selling a few thousand kilowatts a month?
In the long run, competition in local electrical production is going to be a win-win situation for all concerned. It provides foreign currency savings, circulates money in the country and will ultimately make the country self sufficient as well as giving Belizeans low priced electricity. Competition rights are the name of the game here! Tower Hill is just breaking new ground. But a two year lead time is about all they can expect before other electrical producers start producing electric plants, if it pays profitably. Let's keep the door open for competition.
The Prime Minister says much of the alleged missing money from the Social Security Fund has been invested in things like Credit Unions, Cooperatives and other proper local investment projects. We are doing our own finance investing he says. This is a good thing. What the Prime Minister says, is definitely true as to sentiment and he is certainly good with the blarney. He'd get my vote for sincerity! But the question that arises in my mind, is how does he know this?
Investigative Reporters from the media outlets in the port town of Belize City, say that the Social Security Board are a number of years behind in accounting in violation of Statues and Laws governing such things. That the so-called transparency the Prime Minister bleats about like a sheep, is a mirage, hot aired 'feel good politicians bombast'. The Social Security Board and Head according to the local media, say there are no accounts, and that they cannot release information they don't have. So the question arises, how does the Prime Minister know? Are there two sets of books? One for the PUP and none for the public, that are years behind? Let there be transparency, in fact!
The young people had a great adventure. In an article in the Reporter of June 25th, a description is given. There was a section commenting on some facets of local competitions which decide who represents Belize. The Creole crowd of the port Belize City are lamenting on the condition of their facilities and track. In the meantime, while the port town crowd get more tax money invested in their city by the godfathers of the PUP political gang. One wonders what kind of track and sports facility is going to be built in Big Falls the Toledo District? Or other Districts? I mean, the port town and the Belize District have had sports facilities for decades going back to Colonial Days. What about equal treatment for the other districts? Seems only fair. Before you fix up with more tax money the port town existing facilities, shouldn't you be spending money on similar facilities in other districts? Equal distribution, or are we continuing this Creole discrimination against, the rest of the nation?