The government of Belize, during yesterday’s House Sitting, passed a bill which legislates tax and duty exemptions for Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), a billion dollar multi-national company that has been given a 25-year exclusive contract to control cruise operations in southern Belize.
The Belize Island Holdings Facility Development Bill 2015 legally gives NCL a stranglehold on cruise tourism in the south via its Harvest Caye development, much the same way the Fort Street Tourism Village (FSTV) was given exclusivity in Belize City, which caused a plethora of problems when the need for a new port arose.
Toledo East Area Representative Mike Espat made his disapproval known during the session. He said unlike rich multi-nationals like NCL, Belizean startups don’t get exemptions and subsidies, much less exclusivity on anything.
“We need to protect our Belizean people in respect to investment,” Espat said.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow, in response, confirmed that his government gave NCL a 25-year-long exclusivity contract. He countered Espat by reminding him that at one point even he supported the project when the People’s United Party (PUP) was in government.
Barrow added that his government gave the contract before there was any judicial challenge to the legality of exclusive contracts, referring to the Stake Bank vs. FSTV challenge. Recounting that the Supreme Court struck down an exclusivity in that regard, Barrow said that decision is something both government and the developer must now take into consideration.
NCL’s Harvest Caye is expected to be completed by November.
Norwegian Cruise Lines, Tax Breaks For A Fortune 500 Company?
Another bill which passed today was the Belize Island Holdings Facility Development Bill of 2015. That's a bill which confirms and puts into law that the Government will give Norwegian Cruise Line tax and duty exemptions for their Harvest Caye Cruise Port, which they are trying finish up by the end of 2016.
Well, at the adjournment of the House Debate, even though the "yea's" had it, Toledo East Area Representative Mike Espat rose and registered his disapproval of the bill.
He made it clear that he had a problem with the tax breaks and the exclusivity clause given to NCL, guaranteeing them to be the only cruise port in the south for the next 25 years. That sparked a back and forth between him and the Prime Minister. Here's how it went: