Access to a reliable potable water source and electricity are no longer luxuries. These are fundamental necessities needed to secure even the most rudimentary acceptable living conditions. The fact that both publicly owned and government controlled utilities failed in Caye Caulker at the peak of the tourist season was the cause of great consternation to residents, hotel owners, investors and visitors. This was also the cause for the depression and disappointment of the Minister of Tourism and local Area Representative Hon. Manuel Heredia. The residents of Caye Caulker are both heavily invested and reliant on the tourism industry for incomes. The financial hit has been two-fold, as losses in revenue from cancellations and in material losses of perishables that could not be stored properly.
While BWSL admitted that for the last five years the population growth on the island has been the highest of all the areas it serves, it did not revise its plans and make any preparations to adequately keep up. Another of the concerns that was raised is the lack of sewage collection and treatment facilities on the island that can no longer be ignored. Left unchecked this could lead to serious health issues for residents and visitors. Likewise, BEL failed to maintain its equipment and make allowances for the exponential growth of the island which has been recently named a premiere tourist destination in Belize.
In fact, it was not until three months ago that BEL even recognized the need in maintaining permanent technical staff in Caye Caulker to deal with recurring blackouts. Both companies have plans for the short, medium and long term. However, proper planning includes contingency plans which were not in place in the event of emergencies such as the most recently experienced. There is gross neglect where assessment and monitoring of real time conditions are concerned and failure to act on information that the supply of these two utilities was no longer adequate for the increasing demand.
The Minister of Tourism Hon. Manuel Heredia seemed to be caught off guard with the situation in Caye Caulker. Clearly, he has again dropped the ball as no doubt the entire Tourism Industry in Belize will suffer the fallout from this debacle. It is abundantly clear that he is incompetent. Just late last year he was filling up “Sacachispas” on the eve of his endorsement convention. Yet in his own constituency, the heart of the tourism industry, the supply of basic utilities are insufficient.
How is it then that he can promise to bring an international airport to San Pedro, yet he has trouble with the supply of water and electricity for Caye Caulker? His promises of schools and hospitals which are essential have not materialized for twelve years. The current Minister of Tourism has demonstrated many times that he is not up to the task of representing such an important portfolio. He has not been a good steward of his people, when they lack even the most indispensable of utilities, ambulances, schools and even firefighting equipment.
The PUP recognizes the enormous contribution of the Cayes to the economy of Belize. The residents of Belize Rural South have tremendous impact on the Tourism Industry through the taxes they pay, the income they generate, and foreign exchange they bring to this country. They move the economy and impact other industries all across the country by buying from local producers and farmers and through directly employing thousands of Belizeans to work in the tourist and service industry. The construction industry here also directly employs many Belizeans who send money back home to their families in other districts.
Tourism moves and shapes our economy in many ways both directly and indirectly. The PUP will prioritize the most urgent needs of its citizens. They will ensure that the right technical personnel are in place to monitor, assess, and act so that the events that occurred in Caye Caulker are not repeated there or elsewhere. The PUP will treat the Tourism Industry with the respect and importance it deserves and will endeavor to work with all the stakeholders to ensure its sustainability and success. #PUPWORKS