Prime Minister Dean Barrow is back from Miami, Florida, where he held meetings with representatives of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, a partner in the Fort Street Tourism Village. He continues to lead the Government’s efforts to broker a solution to the impasse between the Village and Michael Feinstein, its former owner and mastermind of the Stake Bank Cruise Port project off the Belize District coastline. At his Belize City office the Prime Minister told reporters that he will hold off on announcing any progress until he has met with Feinstein on Friday afternoon. However, he was willing to discuss the millstone around the neck of the Stake Bank project: the lengthy guarantee given in contract to FSTV. While he is confident the agreement could be challenged, the Prime Minister says he would prefer not to.
Hon. Dean Barrow – Prime Minister
“I don’t know about that. I have legal opinions that speaks to the contrary. The point is, if we go to court over that, we believe we would win or could win. The whole purpose of the discussions is to avoid reaching that point. I would say to you that there is the very well establish argument that the executive cant bind the legislature. I don’t see anything in the agreement that constrained the executive to seek, even to persuade the legislature never to alter the tax, never to alter proportion. I only say this to make a point that it is not an open and shut situation in terms of the contractual rights of RCCL.”
According to Barrow any wrong moves would all but ensure that Royal Caribbean leaves Belize City high and dry, which would hurt all involved.
Hon. Dean Barrow
” The spirit , and we might complain about how it is that the agreements came about, but the spirit of the agreements was to offer RCCL this porting on the head tax for this specific number. And I am saying I want to try to forge some sort of a compromise, because if we end up in a fight with RCCL, it is the easiest thing for them to simply pick up their marbles and leave while awaiting the outcome of any court case. That’s not going to be in the interest of the country. It’s not going to be the interest of Mr. Feinstein if he is to build the port. You need the throughput and Royal Caribbean is substantial in that regard. So, we are nowhere near to reaching a point where I would be prepared to say to RCCL ‘you know what, we are simply going to parliament and pass some sort of a law that would free us from what you RCCL see as our contractual obligations.’
The Prime Minister has committed to updating the press sometime next week following his meeting with Feinstein, and states he remains committed to bringing the two sides together in partnership for the benefit of the entire industry.