Tuesday, February 17, 2009

To improve or not to improve?

The big buzz in the neighborhood lately has been a movement to try to get the government of Belize to improve one or both of the roads into the Mountain Pine Ridge. Both the San Antonio/Cristo Rey Road and the Georgeville/MPR Road are in deplorable shape. Rarely do we top 30mph, and most of the driving in and out of here is done in second and third gear. Recently, a group of business owners banded together and circulated a petition requesting a meeting with the appropriate ministers to discuss when and how road conditions can be improved.

Tom and I have done a 180 on this issue, for what it’s worth. When we originally saw the petition, we agreed with everything on it and signed. It basically said that improving the road would improve the tourism potential in the area, and cited a few examples of incidents where tourists had a bad experience due to road conditions. The examples were true, and, in fact, we’ve had tourists stop here asking how much further to locations in the Mountain Pine Ridge, not wanting to go any further if they had too far to go.

However, after Tom put his name and the name of our business on the petition, we chatted with the gentleman who was soliciting signatures. In the course of the conversation, he said that when he and his wife first moved to Belize, they thought all Belizeans were stupid, but lately they’ve revised that opinion and decided that they’re not all stupid, but it’s unfortunate that the intelligent ones are criminals. Upon hearing this remark, I had to get up and leave the house, and fortunately for Tom the gentleman continued blathering long enough that Tom could pick his jaw up off the floor, utter some platitudes, and end the conversation. After he left, Tom and I agreed that we probably made a mistake in signing the petition since these people would be representing our voice to the ministers, and what and how they think about Belize and the Belizean people is completely different from how we think.

Given this representation, we’ve also decided that since the road is what it is, and is exactly what it was when we bought our property and, as far as we know, when most of the petition signers bought their properties, we really have no right to ask the government to spend money to fix it. Like most governments, the Government of Belize is working on limited funds, and it would take millions of dollars to get this road into any sort of shape where it could be maintained in good condition. Many, many projects exist in other parts of Belize where the government could spend their limited funds on roads, and benefit many more people. Yes, it would benefit tourism if the Mountain Pine Ridge lodges, archeological sites, and natural attractions were more accessible, but it would take a long time for that benefit to pay for itself, and few individual Belizeans would see any difference at all. And yup, we’ve had people who have elected not to stay here because of nine or ten miles of bad road between us and “civilization” – but, we’ve also had guests who have extended one or two night stays into three or four night stays because they had more they wanted to see and do in the Mountain Pine Ridge, and they didn’t want to drive back and forth to San Ignacio.

We were not invited to the meeting with the ministers, but we’ve heard that the group was basically told that they knew the conditions when they started their businesses, and the government doesn’t have the resources to do much on these roads. The group is apparently trying to continue the movement, and the thing about this that we think is very ironic is that they’re trying to use the three big Mountain Pine Ridge lodges as the front for the effort, and their chief spokesperson is the only Belizean who started and owns any of the lodges (another is owned by Belizeans, but was started by Americans). We’re just wondering whether the Belizean front man is stupid or if he’s a criminal, and why the petition pushers would want either a dummy or a criminal as their spokesperson. Maybe we’ll ask the Belizean – whom we know and respect, and consider to be an honest and intelligent man – which he is and how the effort is going next time we run into him on the road.


Lisa said...

Both of you are much nicer than I am. I highly doubt I would have been able to hold my sarcasm back faced with such bigotry. I probably would have said, "Oh Really? Well half my family is Belizian. I'll be sure to let them know your opinion." Or something similar. I was in Austria once when a couple of American men were behind me stating what dogs the Austrian women were. I turned around and said, "Us Austrian women speek English You Fools." in a fake accent of course.. They ran.. LOL

sandy a. said...

Some people are so uncouth. It's ashame that man has such a negative attitude.
I have been torn about our road (the Placencia road) getting paved too--I hated the road, but I loved the "rusticness" of it. Regardless, it's getting paved now! Here comes civilization!

Leanne said...

Wow ... these days the Placencia road is the most rustic road I've ever been on! Well, almost.