Re-activating the Port of Dangriga

vlcsnap-2013-08-26-09h20m52s118Last week Thursday, the Government of Belize reclaimed possession of the Port at Commerce Bight, which was at the time being managed by the Port of Belize Limited. Government charges that owners Port of Belize Limited have failed to properly manage or develop the Port, including promised dredging of the approach to the dock, or pay the lease rental subject to Clause 16 of the Lease Agreement. GOB says it will be seeking international funding to upgrade the port to global standards. It’s an alluring pitch, as Belize stands to benefit greatly both economically and commercially. Government’s re-acquisition has sparked conversation at every length and breadth of the country and contributing to the dialogue is former political pioneer and founder of the World Garifuna Organization, Dr. Theodore Aranda.  Doctor Aranda,  a resident of the south, penned a riveting article titled “Re-activating Port of Dangriga” where he lays out his analysis of the port in the context of national development. On Thursday, we spoke with Dr. Aranda to dig more into his piece.

Dr. Theodore Aranda:

vlcsnap-2013-08-26-09h18m45s98I’m looking at open and sustainable markets, that can indeed make our factors of competitive efficiency, so that we can deal with markets, products, movable products, and the likes.  You cannot limit these to the product and market that we have now.  Most of us would want to talk about tourism.  Most of us would talk about the industries we have, such as oil, citrus, sugar, etcetera.  That’s what we are looking at.  Yes, those are what we have, but what we must plan for, what we must look to, are things that are much greater than those.  There are very many other factors that need to be brought in, like for instance, do we have the efficient ports?  Do we have the modern ports, the adequate ports, highways, airports, transportation system that is reliable to move these products that we have?  We have to look further and much beyond those, not just tomorrow, not just ten years from now, not just fifty years from now, but a preparation to be able to become competitive within the region and the world, a hundred, two hundred years from here . The opening of the Pamama Canal in 2015, that is one of the things the whole world is  looking forward to.  What are we doing to prepare for it?  That’s one of the things that port can do.

In the framework of individual gain, Dr. Aranda explained why Belizeans should be interested in this undertaking.

Dr. Theodore Aranda:

vlcsnap-2013-08-26-09h28m13s161First of all, jobs come because of the things that I have mentioned.  Availability of jobs, that is employment.  The fact that there are industries that you can seek employment at, and you are trained also into employment..  If you’re not trained, you can train yourself, or you can be trained, through our school system, through skilled labour practices, all of those.  In other words, you can expand and enable yourself to earn a lot more.  If there are enough industries, if our infrastructures are in good operation, we cannot just only have economic opportunities  for those who are the job itself, but economic opportunities means opportunities for every single one of us.  Your cost of medication can come down quite a lot.  Your capacity to go to hospital and get good treatment is another one. You’re going to school  and can’t receive a very good education is another one.  When you travel from one part of the country to the next you don’t have to spend all the money that you have to get there, and then you take all the time to get there.  So this is the major thing that, economic opportunities means that there are very many things that are available to each and every one of us.

The port is situated at a strategic location, with a right of entry directly into Central America and the Caribbean. And this is all the more reason to effectively manage the port explained Dr Aranda.

Dr. Theodore Aranda:

vlcsnap-2013-08-26-09h30m00s214The port of Dangriga stands at the center of the country of Belize. That port is the only deepwater port that we have.  That port is the only port that we can indeed develop into this, except and unless we start looking to the future.  There is the Big Creek in the South.  There are possibilities for that port.  However, and this is a very good thing that I believe somebody needs to mention,  however if our attitude is going to be to stifle any one of these ports so that the other one or two can survive, we are shooting ourselves in the foot and we are shooting ourselves in the brain.  It’s not simply a port in Dangriga.  No! It’s a port in Belize, which puts us in a competitive situation in Central America, in the Caribbean, and in the rest of the world.  So it’s not just, as we like to talk about it, like the development of the South.  South of what?   It Belize we are developing, not just a simple piece.

Capitalizing on the port at Commerce Bight will not be easy says Dr Aranda, though it is possible; he detailed his recommendations to Government.

Dr. Theodore Aranda:

vlcsnap-2013-08-26-09h30m14s101The country also needs to develop the policies and practices to make this a reality.  In other words, one of the things that Belize is known for right now is that it is not very reliable to invest in.  We have to make sure that we change that, change the policies that lead to that, as well as the practices that lead to that also.  The other one is skilled labour force.  So we need to train the people throughout the country, so that we can serve our nation quite effectively and very efficiently. The other one is, we need to build partnerships   to achieve what we are trying to achieve.  This Guatemalan problem would be alleviated by quite a degree, if there were a trade relationship between Belize and Guatemala.  We have to research and we have to study how to improve our circumstances.

Meanwhile, Receiver of the Port of Belize Limited expressed to us last week that he has contacted his attorneys and plans to contest the repossession.

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