Thinking Out Loud

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By: Kevin Bernard

You know what I don’t understand, and I never will? How can our leaders in office think it’s okay to take more than half-a-million dollars and give it to their Ministers for Christmas Cheer – but they can barely find $300,000 to give to our sugar-cane farmers so that they can fix sugar roads? And wait – even worse than that, we understand that the money has not been allocated to cane-farmers across the board, but have been put in the care of certain persons to hand out.

Farmers in Orange Walk South, for example – where there are 719 cane farmers, 34 sugar roads and a production of 200,000 tons of sugar cane annually have gotten no assistance for their sugar roads. I am sure many of you have seen the footage where a cane truck overturned on the Yo Creek Road which is in deplorable condition. I know too that there are many roads in Orange Walk East which have not been fixed, and our farmers struggle to get their cane out every day.

These are the things which cause riot and bloodshed in countries right around us. Our leaders, including the Prime Minister, are always ready to boast that the cane-farmers are the lifeblood of the North. But it seems that this government has never taken the side of the cane-farmers. Our cane-farmers have to struggle to survive, and it seems they never get a break. This is wrong, and if it continues, when the frustration spills over it won’t be a pretty thing at all. I hope we never get to that point.

And even as our cane-farmers are frustrated by the unfairness and political manipulation of the little bit of monies for sugar roads, our residents have to watch the Ministry of Works personnel cleaning up Imer Hernandez’s mess at the northern bypass roundabout. Every single project this guy does, he messes up. And yet he keeps getting millions in contracts. That is insanity. Under this administration, we have gotten no value for money – and this is not money which belongs to Dean Barrow – this is money which will need to be repaid by all of us. This is taxpayer money.

As Mayor of Orange Walk Town, I have always made it a priority that our residents receive value for money. I understood from my very first day of service, when I was only a Councillor, that with the authority given to us came an even greater responsibility to spend the people’s money wisely, and in ways which benefit the majority, rather than just a chosen few. That is why we have been able to do so much in Orange Walk, despite being punished by Central Government for so long. It is why we have been able to deal with garbage efficiently, maintain drains, parks, playgrounds and pave an unprecedented amount of streets in Orange Walk Town. And we continue to pave streets and do all the other things that any good Council should do, because we don’t play games with the people’s money. I am sure that this Barrow administration could learn a lot from how this Orange Walk Town council has managed the affairs of this town. If we were dealing with a contractor like Imer Hernandez, his first job would have been his last, because we do not deal with bloated contracts and we do not accept inferior work.

This year, as we head toward general elections, our people must understand to what depths we have sunk. In his New Year’s address the Prime Minister said nothing about corruption – yet every Belizean has suffered because of that corruption. It is largely because of that corruption that we have to pay so much for the cost of living and it goes up every year. And while the quality of our lives are less, those in Cabinet are living lives of plenty.

This is the year when Belizeans must prepare to usher in a new PUP administration, one which has learned from mistakes in the past and one which is determined to serve the people with integrity. It can no longer be business as usual in Belize. I intend to serve my people in the House of Representatives very soon, if trusted with that awesome responsibility, and I can assure you that the people will come first. This Barrow administration has done too much to us for too long. It is time for them to go.

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