- Belize: A road to a better place
Belize: A road to a better place
Transportation project paves way to improved standard of living for 30,000 Belizeans
With abundant natural resources and a beautiful Caribbean coastline, Belize’s primary economic activities are agriculture and tourism. The country’s development potential, however, is limited by an inadequate transportation infrastructure, which hampers the movement of goods and people. The maintenance and rehabilitation of the existing road network infrastructure is being prioritized as a means to improve Belize’s competitiveness and regional integration.
Under the grandly-named Golden Stream – Big Falls – Guatemala Border Road Project, OFID has helped finance the rehabilitation of two sections of the Southern Highway – a strategic section of road that serves remote agricultural areas and connects southern parts of Belize to the rest of the country and its border with Guatemala. The project was part of a wider government initiative to rehabilitate the country’s primary road network.
More than 30,000 inhabitants of the southern district of Toledo – an area with significant agricultural and tourism potential – may now enjoy the benefits: the newly-paved all-weather road means easier and cheaper links to the commercial centers of the country.
“Before, the rural roads running through the district of Toledo were unpaved, periodically impassable and stopped short of providing navigable vehicular access to Guatemala,” said Arij Senussi, OFID Country Officer for Belize. “The people of Toledo are now benefiting from greater mobility and easier access to social services and employment opportunities,” she added. Additionally, as the road provides a link to the Pan-American Highway, it makes the Toledo district more appealing to tourists, and this provides a welcome source of additional income.
Despite Belize’s vibrant tourism industry that contributes around 68 percent to its GDP and 67 percent to employment, almost half of the country’s population of approximately 370,000 still lives in poverty. Agriculture, the second largest sector in Belize, accounts for 15 percent of GDP and is crucially important to poverty reduction and improving livelihoods. Senussi explained that although the road network is substantial, some stretches are in such disrepair from flooding and overuse that the transportation of agricultural goods remains difficult and expensive, thus inhibiting the income-generating efforts of small farmers.
OFID has focused on helping to build transportation capacity in Belize, explained Senussi. To date, the organization has approved over US$55 million in support of the sector. More than 150,000 people living in Belize have benefited from OFID’s financing. All projects have aimed at enhancing the country’s road network to improve trade, economic competitiveness and income generation, as well as providing access to social and public health services.