No MOU For Stake Bank Project, Ministry of Tourism Says Formal Agreement In The Works
The Stake Bank and Ocean View Grand two hundred million Belize dollar project with the Feinstein group of companies was unveiled on Wednesday. The development involves both Stake Bank and Drowned Caye and the construction of a causeway. There was support coming from stakeholders even as the National Environmental Assessment Committee was yet to pronounce on the issue of the Environmental Impact Assessment. An EIA had been done for the project in 2009, and like the case of Norwegian Cruise Line, the intention is to rely on that EIA completed four years ago. But there is another issue pending; that is, a formal agreement between government and the Feinstein Group. Earlier today, News Five’s Isani Cayetano caught up with the Minister of Tourism, who shed light on that issue.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Public support from a cross section of the Belizean society, including members of the business community, for the Stake Bank and Ocean View projects was evident at the launch of the Feinstein Group initiative on Wednesday. A proposal for the multimillion dollar investment is currently before the National Environmental Assessment Committee, a working group tasked with considering the overall impact of the project on its immediate surroundings. While the presentation drew a myriad of questions from the media, as well as unwavering support from industry stakeholders, Cabinet is still mulling over details of the plan.
Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism
“Cabinet had given a green light to proceed with whatever they need to do for both the NCL and the Stake Bank projects provided that they follow up with all the necessary things with the DOE [Department of the Environment], Forestry or whoever [it] needs to be done [with]. Once that is done they have the green light from the Cabinet and from our administration.”
Of note is that unlike Norwegian Cruise Line, the Feinstein Group will not be signing a Memorandum of Understanding to get the project off the ground. According to developer Michael Feinstein, the blueprint is before a government subcommittee awaiting signature.
Michael Feinstein, Developer
“I actually spoke late yesterday with a senior member of the Department of the Environment and we have a copy here actually of the ECP that was, a new ECP that was drawn up in August and what is left is that a decision has to be made on monitoring and since that has not yet been done which I understand should be completed this week and then that document is ready for signature. And I was told that I can quote them. As far as the agreement, it’s been sitting with the prime minister’s committee for two and a half months so we’re waiting on feedback from them.”
While an MOU may not be required, tourism minister Manuel Heredia insists that there has to be some formality, an agreement in black and white, which outlines the terms of the deal.
Manuel Heredia, Jr.
“It hasn’t come back to Cabinet since the last time that the subcommittee met with Mr. Feinstein. So definitely I cannot speak about what I don’t [know] but I can guarantee you that something has to be in black and white before anything is agreed to proceed. There has to be something in writing whereby we will protect the rights of the people that will be employed, who will be the key players over there because in our case we believe, just like NCL, that we have to make sure that we take care of the small people. They are the ones that will be getting most of the jobs that the technical people that would be coming within a limited time, those jobs will be passed over to our local people. That is the aim of this administration that whatever happens in the cruise industry will have to be something in the interest of the smaller people.”
To serve that need, Feinstein says that the project, which has been given an export processing zone status, will accommodate Belizean businesses and consumers.
“It’s at three thousand, seven hundred permanent jobs. The trickledown effect
is thousands more.”
Isani Cayetano for News Five.Email This Story