When you consult you hold a discussion with someone and you ask as well as seek advice from. A consultation is a process, sometimes long, sometimes short depending on the intensity of the topic and depending on what is at stake. Usually a consultation is held with stakeholders, or in other words with persons who will be affected.
Recently in Belize, and San Pedro for that matter, we hear a lot about consultation. There is the call for consultation on this and that and in many cases there is a long delay in the process and most usually there are divided viewpoints. The question we ask is “Are consultations always necessary?
Let us look at the need for consultation first. If the action taken will cause negative effects or have repercussions on a sector of the community, usually a consultation is needed. On the other hand, if the action to be taken will affect the entire community or the majority in a positive manner, then what is the need for consultation when everybody wants it?
Perhaps a few concrete examples can better illustrate this point. If the authorities want to build a park or sports facility for the use of the children and adults of an area in town, what is the use of consultation? What will you consult about in any event? Now if permission is being sought to demolish a building and in its place there is a proposal to build a discotheque/ bar or casino, then there seems to be adequate concerns that the neighborhood might want to ask questions or make suggestions. If the neighborhood feels that the prospect development will bring unwanted elements and problems such as noise and crime to the area, then a consultation is necessary. That is not to say that they will make the final decision, but at least their concerns will be heard and some compromise may be reached.
When the idea to build a bridge over the Boca del Rio came about, there was no need for consultation because this could only bring good to the community. It was and still is a necessary service. The same holds true with the erection of cobblestone streets which cannot possibly bring any negative effects on the community. If you were to argue that vehicles now speed on these fine streets, it is not a problem with the streets, but rather the problem lies on the drivers, and that has an easy solution.
This brings us to the point on whether consultation is needed to allow taxis to travel north of the bridge and whether to allow private vehicles to move back and forth in both directions. Isn‘t it a necessary service? Don’t we all have rights and privileges to use our public roads all over the island? What if the residents down south of the town core were to shout out against vehicular traffic on the southern road?
If a certain project will necessitate the cutting of some mangroves to clear the way for a necessary road, aren’t the environmentalists supposed to be flexible and tolerant in the good name of progress? We refuse to directly bring up the topic of the proposed boardwalk and football field transformation or renovation, but we know that there is talk about consultation. Well fine, who is to be consulted? What will people be consulted about? These and many other questions await to be unraveled and we would hope that everyone keeps an open and positive mind.