‘We Want Roads, Roads, Roads’
Honduras has plenty of ministries, 22 in fact. In February it received one more: Ministry of Planning and Foreign Aid (SEPLAN – Secretaria Tecnica de Planificacion y Cooperacion Externa). The ministry is responsible for planning and funding development projects throughout Honduras.
“It’s an effort to decentralize the government and bring in local participation to decision-making,” says Commissioner Evans McNab, responsible for Zone 6, the Bay Islands. The six Zones of Honduras are divided based on watershed and Bay Islands is the country’s smallest zone. Cayos Cochinos, while part of the Roatan Municipality, is not under the Bay Islands Commissioner but instead falls under the Zone 5 Commissioner’s jurisdiction.
Each Zone Commission will rely on a 15 member advisory commission for suggestions and prioritizing of development projects. The four places at the committee are guaranteed for the Municipality mayors, and the remaining 15 places will be assigned in a series of meetings with different groups representing the Bay Islands interests: tour guides, press, construction, etc. All of that is planned for the coming two-three months.
According to Commissioner McNab, Roatan’s mayor has pronounced a new hospital and paving of the Mud Hole to Palmetto road as the top priority projects he’d like help with. The Santos Guardiola mayor wants the road paved from Oak Ridge to Paya Bay. Utila’s mayor wants a road running from East Harbour west towards the Cayos, and Guanaja’s mayor wants the paved road to be continued towards the airport. Road infrastructure is on the mind of all Bay Islands municipal executives.
While Roatan municipality and some private businesses (Carnival Cruise Lines, Media Luna Resort and the Black Pearl golf course) have built several miles of paved roads on the island, the central government and its Ministry of Public Works (Secretaría de Obras Públicas, Transporte y Vivienda SOPTRAVI) have done little in the last several years, apart from maintenance and repair. In the last four years there has been no significant public road construction on the island with Punta Gorda being the only exception. It is conceivable that road work that should have been done by SOPTRAVI, from central government funds, is now likely to be paid from international aid.
The Commissioner’s office is planned to open in the Jared Hynds Community Center in French Harbour. Four technicians are expected to be hired to help with determining and conducting the projects. While the Commissioner’s post is paid around Lps. 20,000 a month, the committee members are not paid.[/private]