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Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Home Editorial Belize, torn “between” three ports

Belize, torn “between” three ports

No government in the world can make a decision that pleases 100% of the people. Indeed, a government with a 60% overall approval rating is flying high, and gaining 80% support for any decision/initiative is a champagne moment. It must be that it’s human nature to disagree. Live Science, at the website livescience.com, says the Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimates that “there are more than 200 Christian denominations in the U.S. and a staggering 45,000 globally.” We are aware of only ONE Jesus the Christ.

Belize, uniquely, went into independence under a state of emergency which came about because Belizeans were overwhelmingly against agreements that had been proposed to appease our bullying neighbor, Guatemala. About putting colonial status behind us, we were divided more or less down the middle over the way we were going about it, but almost 100% in favor of having our flag flying proudly at the United Nations.

The people of Belize accept that no government can “please all of the people all of the time.” We aren’t overly ambitious; on the matter of governance all we expect is that our leaders make sensible laws and respect the oversight bodies that ensure that corruption is checked. On the matter of the projects proffered to develop the nation, all we demand is that all relevant related matters are thoroughly ventilated, before we decide to endorse or reject them. Lamentably, our governance is largely a work in progress, and many projects are rushed through.

Progress, as our first Prime Minister, George Price, told/reminded us, brings problems. Every decision has its pro and con sides. Looking at more wise counsel from our first Prime Minister, he told us that in our system the minority will have its say, but the majority will have its way, meaning that the latter will decide on the development path we will follow. People with narrow interests are always about having their way, but if the majority holds its ground, it will carry the day.

To survive, people must satisfy their basic needs, and for that outcome to be had, humans have to accept some disruption of the environment. If we will not only survive, but thrive too, there might be need for greater disruption of the part of the world in which we live.

The earth being the source of all real wealth, the concerns of environmentalists when developers come with grand ideas can never be undervalued. Overexploitation and other environmental violations have led to rich agricultural lands becoming dust bowls, bodies of life-giving waters drying up or becoming terribly contaminated, and grouper in Belize almost disappearing from our reefs.

From the environmentally conscious people in the land we now know as the USA, comes the sage counsel that we must respect our environment because our world’s resources are borrowed from generations yet to come. Wolves do come in sheep’s clothing; many times things are not what they seem, but at face value there is great applause for our government’s recent declaration that our development initiatives “must be demonstrably sustainable for the long term.”

It seems that at this time there are more things on the table than we can count; in every corner there are critical issues to be considered and decided on, but the decision of the moment just might be the path we choose in regard to the three proposals for cruise ports in Belize City. Presently, there is only one cruise port in that municipality, the Fort Street Tourism Village (FSTV), which sits at Fort Point, on some of the most prime real estate in our country.

The FSTV, which receives tourists from ships that anchor a few miles east of Belize City, has an uncertain future, because the large cruise operators of the world have decided that they will no longer be stopping at destinations where their passengers, most of them seniors, disembark from the cruise ships to small vessels moored alongside those ships. On a number of occasions, visits to Belize in the high season have been cancelled because the winds are too strong.

In the race to capture tourists, and expand the cruise tourism industry, there are these three contenders: Port Coral, The Port of Belize, and Port Magical, all three offering the facility of cruise passengers disembarking onto piers extended from the shore. Successive governments have had a hard time deciding on the way forward, and it was just a few years ago that Port Coral, on the manmade island called Stake Bank, got the go-ahead.
The tourism pie in Belize is high quality, but it isn’t large, and Port Coral, naturally, will not be happy if the government blesses its two rivals, which are proposing ports that are onshore.
Things became a lot clearer about decisions in the making last week, and not everyone in the cruise port business is jumping for joy. The Briceño government, in a policy statement from Cabinet, gave “notice” to those in the cruise sector who want to expand the industry, that while it “views cruise tourism as an important sub-sector of the overall tourism product”, our main focus must be on overnight tourism because it is “more lucrative, more sustainable, more stable.”

A cry of foul went up from FECTAB, an association of roots tour operators and guides that has a 25-year contract with the Port Coral group, because a part of the project, which is well underway with its construction, appears to have run into strong headwinds. The Port Coral project proposal included two causeways, and from the inception those extended bridges have been the cause of much contention.
The headwinds for all projects that involve our marine environment got stronger when the

government announced that thanks to “The Nature Conservancy”, our nation’s largest foreign debt, the Superbond, had been converted to Blue Bonds, a deal through which our financially strained country has realized tremendous savings. The Cabinet paper said the Blue Bonds for Conservation will bolster marine sustainability significantly, “in a manner without precedent.”

It has been suggested in some quarters that the approval for the causeways was gotten through less than perfect procedures, and if it proves to be so, they will likely have to face the vetting process again, if the Port Coral group really feels that those causeways are essential to their product. As noted, our country taking on the Blue Bonds means the other cruise port proposals can expect to also face a more muscular environment lobby.

This tale of three proposals for cruise ports that has had successive governments torn for more than a decade about the way forward looks like it will soon be coming to an end, and it is unlikely that everyone in that industry will be satisfied. For the people of Belize, our only concern is that whatever decisions are made, they serve the best interests of our country.

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