Belize’s Cabinet, to use a classic phrase, is caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea on the issue of a proposed development at Crawl Caye involving Norwegian Cruise Lines. Division has been sharp with environmentalists and environmentalist-minded tourism advocates already coming out against a proposed project. But according to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, a decision is not yet close. He explains that GOB cannot afford to walk away from a $100 million investment that promises jobs without a good reason and must listen to all involved.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
Norwegian is talking about an investment of possibly a hundred million dollars, at least in my view, given the need for employment especially in the need for opportunities, Government must have the conversation that it is having with Norwegian. Given the location of Crawl Caye, Cabinet insisted that the relevant ministries do the proper assessment to ensure that we could even do a project there, and that if we could in what ways the project would have to be limited. I see the BTIA saying, “Oh this is going to be a kind of free for all. Norwegian brings hundreds and hundreds of cruise passengers in their big ships.”
Well if we go ahead one of the limitations might be that you can only bring a small ship.
As to reports of a memorandum of understanding being already crafted, right down to demands to hire foreign workers, the Prime Minister denies it. He says the matter has yet to come to the full Cabinet.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
I don’t know that I’ve seen the terms of any MOU. There is a subcommittee. There may be a draft MOU, certainly no MOU has been brought to Cabinet but if it’s gone beyond the draft stage it can’t be no more than and MOU, a Memorandum of Understanding. It can’t be any contract, it can’t contain obligations at all, the Cabinet Subcommittee would never do that and if they did Government would reject that sort of thing. As far as I know the process is no where near the point where cabinet can make a decision as to whether to proceed. I’ve also heard that ‘oh this may be good to go as early as next week’ absolutely not true. This thing is going through the various protocols in a slow and stately fashion.
Nevertheless, there has been a counterattack against the proposed project, ever since news broke in April. The most recent entity to come in opposition is the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations (APAMO). APAMO argues “In addition to the irreversible environmental impact that mega cruise tourism infrastructure including a port facility would cause, such a project will also adversely affect the country’s economic security from the fishing and tourism industries which depend on the very critical marine ecosystems that would be destroyed in the process. While the project stands to benefit the Norwegian Cruise Line and a few private individuals, the proposed Crawl Caye Development poses serious risks to the economy of Belize and will also risk the de-listing of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System-World Heritage Site which would be a disgrace to Belize and its tourism industry.”