Government Initiates Talks To Open Free Zone
The gates of the Corozal Free Zone have been shut since March, with its future in limbo as the Barrow Administration did not have any intentions to reopen it. But, the PUP promised to re-open it, and today, they took the first steps to doing so.
The Minister in charge of Enterprise, Jose Mai, along with representatives from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, met with the Chamber of Commerce of the Corozal Free Zone yesterday to discuss the way forward.
Today, Minister Mai gave our colleagues at CTV3 an update on that meeting. He spoke about the importance of reopening the free zones, both as a means of revenue generation and employment creation - balanced against the legitimate concerns about COVID transmission:
Jose Mai, Minister, Agriculture, Food Security, Enterprise
"The timeline will be decided by the business owners in the freezone. The plan was presented ot them yesterday. The plan includes, from what I understand, there are approximately 135 to 150 businesses operating in the free zones, small, medium and large. The plan included OIRSA who will take on some of the responsibilities, some of the spraying, and the sterilization so to speak. They would do vehicles, they would also do fumigation of humans through the tunnel, a walk through tunnel, the vehicles would be fumigated, and prior to entering the zone, temperatures will be checked from the people entering the freezone. There will be also people within the freezone walking and at random taking temperatures from people in the stores. The stores are only allowed to employ ? of its employees. After every vehicle is fumigated through the fumigation tunnel, a ticket will be given for a person to enter the freezone. We will have people monitoring if there are persons feeling ill, they quickly inform us and the temperatures are checked and actions are taken right away."
Mai said the cost of reopened operations would be less than $200,000, and that the businesses would split the cost. There is no date set as yet, but this will be high on the agenda at Cabinet's meeting on Tuesday. The plan that we have heard is to push for an opening close to Christmas - but many zone insiders feel that is not realistic.
CFZ to Benefit from Chetumal also Becoming a Free Zone
While it has been announced that neighboring Chetumal will also be transformed into a commercial free zone to generate much needed economic activity in that part of Mexico, there are questions concerning the possible effects such a move would have on our local economy, including revenue generated at the Corozal Free Zone.
Anil Hotchandani, Vice Chairman, Corozal Free Zone
“I think it’s going to be a win-win situation. Yes, it might impact the Belize economy because you are hearing about Chetumal dropping the tax in half. They are planning to cut it from sixteen to eight, I believe, and they are planning to open it up to certain imports. Remember, there are many things that the free zone imports that it‘s not going to be the same thing in Chetumal. It‘s going to be different. Belizeans will benefit from buying in the supermarkets there and the malls there because the tax is being basically cut. This is what my understanding is, it is what Chetumal was twenty-five or thirty years ago, compared to the entire country of Mexico, the state of Quintana Roo had a preferential rate for imports and for taxes. They are going back to that basically to revive their economy. But I see more people from Campeche, from Yucatan and all, coming to Chetumal to shop also because they‘ll be stretching their peso and at the same time, when Chetumal is going to have an influx of their own Mexicans coming from various other parts, the free zone will benefit from that visitation.”
No Foreign Exchange to be Used
Contrary to previous reports in other areas of the media regarding the purported shortage of foreign exchange on the local market, a check with the relative parties has proven otherwise. News Five has been made to understand that Caribbean Investment Holdings Limited, the parent company of Belize Bank, is not relying on the local banking sector in order to execute the sale of Scotiabank Limited. In fact, the purchase of those shares will come from C.I.H.L.’s external resources and absolutely no foreign exchange from Belize will be used to complete the transaction.