BELMOPAN CITY COUNCIL: FULL STEAM AHEAD WITHOUT A RUDDER
In September of 2015, with the lobbying of John Saldivar the Area Representative of Belmopan, Belize's Cabinet approved the floating of a Municipal Bond by the Belmopan City Council for six million five hundred thousand Belize dollars ($6.5 million BZ).
Purpose Of Capital Raised from Floating Municipal Bond
To continue the improvement of infrastructure in and around Belmopan City. There is currently no prospectus that can give detailed information.
To pay off a 2 million dollar loan. Without success, I tried to find out if this is being done because that loan was none performing or if the City Council just wants to take advantage of lower interest rates.
This shows the irresponsibility of John Saldivar as the elected Area Representative of Belmopan, Belize's Cabinet and Belmopan City Council for not having a clearly defined road map for the next 10 to 50 years before such an undertaking is even considered.
How Will This Municipal Bond Be Paid Back?
As a resident of Belmopan you can expect, due to the lack of proper private sector development, to pay increased property fees, trade license fees, traffic fees and other revenue sources the Belmopan City Council will have to identify to service this debt.
Why A Clearly Define Road Map Is Needed
Any investment should have a clearly defined strategy on how that investment will generate money and thus giving a positive ROI (Return On Investment). This is even more important because you do not want to make an investment that will place the residents of Belmopan nor the citizens of Belize in further debt, since Belize is already in a state of acute indebtedness, with no end in sight.
January 21st, 2016
I attended the first public meeting held by the Belmopan City Council where this item of the Belmopan Municipal Bond was on the agenda. I asked two pertinent questions:
Is the Belmopan Municipal Bond a done deal?
Paraphrasing: I was told that it was and that the Belmopan City Council can, by law, float a bond without the input of the residents of Belmopan.
Will there be an in-depth consultation of residents of Belmopan?
Paraphrasing: I was told by Khalid Belisle, the current Mayor of Belmopan, that he and his UDP slate was informing residents about the municipal bond during their campaign leading up to March 2015 Municipal Elections, and these public meetings (where a small percentage of residents are able to attend) are a part of the continued consultation.
It is important to note that informing someone of something and presenting concrete, detailed, research information is not consultation.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE: A CONSENSUAL VISION OF THE FUTURE OF BELMOPAN
It is my understanding that Anthony Chanona was the first and last Mayor of Belmopan who had the foresight of developing a road map plan for Belmopan. There was some attempts under Mayor Lopez, however nothing was comprehensive and complete. Under Khalid Belisle this rudderless attempt to develop Belmopan, continues.
Step 1: The Belmopan City Council needs to spearhead the formation of a Steering Committee that is made up of every head of every NGO, churches, schools, community leaders, business leaders etc.
Step 2: Once that Steering Committee is assembled, they need to solicit the contract of a professional consulting firm that can undertake the task of developing an in-dept, detailed white paper based on criteria input from the Steering Committee.
Step 3: Once a professional consultation firm is selected, let them do their jobs. This is a very scientific process. Have them report to the Steering Committee in a timely manner, example: every 2 weeks or every month.
Step 4: Once this white paper is completed it then needs to be ratified by the Steering Committee.
Step 5: It then needs to be translated into an easily understandable document.
Step 6: Once it is translated for the laymen, it should then be presented to the Public for ratification. The document should be made available in print form and digital form and every effort to get a copy to each household in Belmopan, should be made.
Why Is This Necessary?
We must all realize, as residents, and leaders of Belmopan that a proactive, not a reactive, approach is needed to properly develop Belmopan. Instead of having to repeatedly battle the forces of unplanned growth, why not canvas the residents of Belmopan to find out not just what they are against, but instead, what they actually want for the future development of the Garden City.
This process was partially done in 1999 when residents of Belmopan voted in a referendum to switch to direct election of a city council. In 2000, Belmopan was incorporated as a city and held its first City Council election.
What I am proposing would be thorough and would be real participatory democracy.
Belmopan has a population growth of over 17% per annum. The average annual urban population growth is 3%.
Due to the population growth percentage vs. the average annual population growth, Belmopan would need road map of approximately 20 years to start with.
I recommend the road map be called "Belmopan 2030: A Consensual Vision of the Future of the Garden City"