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Jan 17, 2002

Government puts Port Authority on the block

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It’s been no secret that the Belize Ports Authority would be the next major government asset to be put on the privatisation block. And although negotiations with various potential buyers have been ongoing, it was only today that the formal prospectus was released to the public. Selling price for the package, consisting of the Belize City and Commerce Bight operations, will be forty million Belize dollars, with the new owners also assuming existing debts. Norris Hall, who has also served as government’s P.R. point man on the B.E.L. and WASA privatisations, explains government’s rationale for the move.

Norris Hall, P.R. Officer, Government Investments

“The government has taken a policy that it is not in the business of doing business. And that it wants to use its capital resources or it’s financial resources, to invest in more social programmes, education, health and what have you. The decision to privatise the port, like the decision to privatise the other companies, was taken because the government decided that it wants a strategic investor as it did in the other privatisations, to come in with the wherewithal and the know how to improve the operational efficiency of the port, and to improve the technology that goes only with improving the efficiency of the port.”

While the port’s strategic investor may have the wherewithal, it may not necessarily bring a wealth of international experience. Unlike previous privatisations, the leading candidates for the port purchase are said to be locally led consortiums. And to make operations work profitably, they will likely be looking at ways to cut labour costs. We asked Hall if workers should be concerned.

Norris Hall

“The Port Authority only operates with its own staff. Stevedores and those ancillary workers, are not under contract with the port, but they work along with the union on behalf of the shipping companies in Belize. The port’s responsibilities is only to its employees. And these employees will have their services and benefits roll over when the port is privatised.”

As in previous privatisations, the Belizean public is being invited to invest. Announcements will be made shortly on where interested parties can obtain a prospectus.

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