Last week, when we caught up with Prime Minister the Hon. Dean Barrow, he divulged on a number of issues. Tonight, we continue our coverage of that extended interview. The PM shared quite candidly on the joint venture between the Government of Belize and the Norwegian Cruise Line for a mega-million dollar terminal at Harvest Caye. Resistance continues to mount against the idea of cruise tourism in southern Belize – most recently causing a riff between the primary organizations responsible for promoting Belizean tourism – that is the BTB and the BTIA. Nonetheless, the project is one step closer to inception, as a memorandum of agreement between GOB and NCL was signed last week. PM Barrow, who has stated his satisfaction with the project, detailed some of the provisions of the MOU.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
Well certainly we took out the 20 years exemption from business taxes. That’s been taken out. There is an insistence that after a certain number of years the head tax will be increased. There is a great insistence on ensuring that the jobs will be had by Belizeans, even as we try to protect our sites against overcrowding. In other words, one provision says you must take 25%, or whatever the percentage is, of your passengers to our sites, whether marine or terrestrial, and all those tourists must be for Belizeans. That percentage requirement has to give way to the fact that you have to check with the managers of those sites. If they could only take one hundred or two hundred visitors a day, the you can carry more than one hundred or two hundred. In every way we’re trying to ensure that we balance the need for employment, the need for investment, the need for Belizeans getting jobs. At the island itself, spaces must be reserved for Belizean owned businesses. They must be at a certain level.
So what’s next since the MOU has been inked? Prime Minister Barrow explained.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
We make it very clear in the Memorandum Of Understanding, which in any event is not contractual, it’s not a binding legal document, but we make it clear that we will not sign a binding legal document until the EIA has been passed, until [consultation with] all the technical people, who have anything to do with whether you interfere with manatee sites, whether in terms of how you get rid of your waste water, you waste, and so on; You must do A, B, C, and D; So that there’s no dumping, no more pollution than is absolutely minimal, that sort of thing. Nothing will be done legally until all those requirements have been worked out, until the company’s business model has passed muster in that regard. When all that is agreed, we will go to the House and pass a law reflecting all of this.
While the legislation will contain most of the key features says the PM, other supplementary, but critical details would be included in a formal contractual agreement. We note that Barrow did not sign the MOU – which is not a binding document. He states that is the responsibility of the Minister, instead he awaits a formal contract between both parties involved.