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PM: Chetumal Free Zone A Non Starter

Posted By: Marty

PM: Chetumal Free Zone A Non Starter - 10/30/18 12:14 PM

The Prime Minister discussed the possibility of a so-called Free Zone in Chetumal.

The opposition has said it's a death-knell for the Corozal Free Zone and could result in the loss of thousands of jobs in the north. Today, the PM said keep calm and read the fine print - there's not going to be any real Free Zone in Chetumal:...

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"The alarm is that Chetumal will become even more of a magnet for Belizeans, we will hemorrhage Belize dollars and our local merchants will be mightily squeezed."

"It is a development that GOB takes seriously. But our analysis convinces us that there are implements in our toolkit sufficient to counter the danger; and that in any event we should be careful not to overstate that danger and go into panic mode."

"Mexican President-elect is certainly not looking to harm Belize. His program is to stimulate activity and fight poverty, and is to be implemented first in the border areas with the US. It is only after that has been done and assessed, that there would be the possibility of rolling out the initiative to Chetumal. And of what, really, is the program made up? The VAT will not be eliminated but cut in half to 8%. Thus, there will be no tax-free shopping to convert Chetumal into a Free Zone. Indeed, at the same time as the VAT would be halved, the minimum wage would be doubled. This is a pro-poor proposal that will likely boost consumption. But it will also inevitably have an inflationary effect, push prices upwards and perhaps cancel out whatever cost reduction the halving of the Vat would notionally bring. For sure this could not make Chetumal more competitive than our CFZ."

"So, the feared new price advantage that the cutting in half of the VAT will supposedly confer on Chetumal, may be more illusory than real."

The Prime Minister also said has invited Mexico's new President - elect Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador to Belize in December for a SICA summit.

Channel 7

Posted By: Marty

Re: PM: Chetumal Free Zone A Non Starter - 10/31/18 12:09 PM

A Corozal Comeback

Yesterday - at his comeback press conference, Prime Minister Dean Barrow focussed a fair portion of his prepared remarks on dispelling the notion that Chetumal will become a free zone - thus leeching away business from the already sagging Corozal Free Zone.

And what will happen to Corozal town and district? Well, the PM says the idea is to pull some reverse marketing magic Quintana Roo, by encouraging residents of that southern Mexican state to come to Belize. He explained the strategy:..

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Tourism in Corozal. We are planning a massive tourism expansion we are in any event planning for Corozal. Over 50% of Mexicans from Tulum down to Chetumal (4 municipalities, 1.5 million residents) do not have a passport. The travel option out of Mexico for them is therefore only Belize. We will take advantage of this by extending the life of our current border crossing cards to Mexicans from 3 days to 7 days. The BTB is upgrading tourism facilities at Santa Rita and Cerros, and a tourism welcome center in Corozal Town is to commence under our Sustainable Tourism Project 2. And Corozal Bay is fast becoming a dining and entertainment zone that can be packaged as a tour and marketed by the BTB. Director Bevans is also here to share more with you regarding this tourism aspect of the plan to empower Corozal and beat off any challenge from Chetumal."

"I have already invited the Mexican President-elect to come to Belize in mid-December for the SICA summit and I would be sure to press delivery of this long overdue PSA."

"Our Ambassador in Cuba, HE Lou Anne Burns, is working on direct flights between Havana and Belize to be provided by Bahamas Air. And if this materializes, Annie has already agreed with a Havana tour company that a bus trip to the CFZ for shopping will be a part of the travel package for the Cuban tourists coming to Belize."

The Sustainable Tourism Project II plans to spend 15.5 million US dollars on developing tourism in Toledo, Caye Caulker, Corozal and the Mountain Pine Ridge/Caracol/Chiquibul area.

Channel 7


GOB proposing a master tourism plan for Corozal free zone

Ever since the Mexican president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, made the announcement that he would fight poverty in his country and would convert Chetumal into a commercial free zone, Belizeans in the Corozal Free Zone and elsewhere in the country have noted the announcement with trepidation.

The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) issued a press release lambasting the government for its silence on the matter of the Mexican president-elect’s announcement.

This morning, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, at a press conference, outlined government’s intention to set in motion a master plan for the Corozal Free Zone and the wider Corozal District, which government is planning to turn into a tourist destination after putting in place some of the necessary infrastructure.

“It is a development that GOB takes seriously,” Barrow said today, “But our analysis convinces us that there are implements in our toolkit sufficient to counter the danger; and that in any event we should be careful not to overstate that danger and go into panic mode.”

Barrow said that he has been able to confirm from Belize’s Ambassador to Mexico, HE Oliver del Cid, that the Mexican president-elect “is certainly not looking to harm Belize.”

Barrow announced a master plan and re-purposing for the Corozal Free Zone, which will become possible with government’s consultation with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

“And in fact, the Technical Assistance project we signed with the IDB is actually titled ‘Support for Export-Led Development in the Corozal District including the Corozal Free Zone’. The London company, Vivid Economics, with long experience around the world in assisting Free Zones and special economic areas to take advantage of trade realities and opportunities, is heading the project,” Barrow announced.

Barrow explained that government is planning a massive tourism thrust for the Corozal District which will include attracting “over 50% of Mexicans from Tulum down to Chetumal [4 municipalities, 1.5 million residents] who do not have a passport. The travel option out of Mexico for them is therefore only Belize. We will take advantage of this by extending the life of our current border crossing cards to Mexicans from 3 days to 7 days. The BTB is upgrading tourism facilities at Santa Rita and Cerros, and a tourism welcome center in Corozal Town is to commence under our Sustainable Tourism Project 2.”

“And Corozal Bay is fast becoming a dining and entertainment zone that can be packaged as a tour and marketed by the BTB,” he said.

Barrow added that Taiwan is to commit to infrastructure improvement for the Corozal District and have already sent their “Team Finalization of our draft PSA with Mexico.”

Barrow added, “This is something I had started way back in the time of President Calderon. It has been stalled most recently because of the NAFTA renegotiations. But those are now done and Belize will accordingly push for early conclusion of our PSA. In that regard, I have already invited the Mexican president-elect to come to Belize in mid-December for the SICA summit and I would be sure to press delivery of this long overdue PSA.”

Barrow said that Belize’s Ambassador to Cuba, HE Lou Anne Burns, is working on getting direct flights between Havana and Belize. The flights will be provided by Bahamas Air.

“And if this materializes, Annie has already agreed with a Havana tour company that a bus trip to the CFZ for shopping will be a part of the travel package for the Cuban tourists coming to Belize. As far as is humanly possible, therefore, we’ve got this apprehended new threat from Chetumal fully covered,” Barrow said.

Amandala

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