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Sep 14, 2000

Govt. announces major free zone expansion

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For most Belizeans the Corozal Free Zone is a tantalizing piece of forbidden fruit, a place where the sweet taste of cut rate fashion, duty free luxuries and dollar beer is officially denied to all but a fortunate few. But to planners in Belmopan the zone is ripe for the transition from foreign exchange nightmare to economic powerhouse. News Five’s Jose Sanchez entered the land of plenty where some new ideas were unveiled.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The new global economy is challenging Belize to change its traditional ways of thinking about financial growth. We must find new ways to develop Belize’s economy, and according to the Prime Minister, the Free Zone in Corozal has plenty of potential. On Wednesday, he unveiled the plan for the zone’s expansion.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“We have to realize that so many young developing countries are beginning to realize that it’s through the development of human capital, through the development of knowledge based industries, through the development of services, and through the rapid and efficient mobilization and movement of goods and services that the world economy is now really developing at a rapid pace, and Belize can not be left behind. So we see the Free Zone as part of that new thrust of our government to enter this new economy, to enter this new and changing economy for a modern Belize.”

This modern Belize is expected to thrive in soon-to-be-developed areas of the free zone. The zone’s chief executive officer says that part of this expansion includes world-class hotels and casinos.

Rodney Neal, Chief Executive Officer, Corozal Free Zone

“These are the tourist developments which are being done by Mr. Glenn Godfrey, all this area here. Basically at this point this area is still under bush.”

Jose Sanchez

“So this is set for the future.”

Rodney Neal

“It is set for the future. As Mr. Marin said upstairs in the press conference, by the end of the year 2003, all this should be in place.”

Jose Sanchez

“And that includes casinos?”

Rodney Neal

“I would imagine that casinos would be there, according to what we understand. If you look at the signs there, that is intention. The sign says, the Maya Hotel Riviera and Casino.”

Ralph Fonseca, Minister of Budget Planning

“The Free Zone is a part of our diversification of the economy. We’re trying to get to a two billion dollar economy in this term, so we’re hoping that the Free Zone will play its role and change very quickly to a point where it’s at least ten percent of our G.D.P.”

To do that will require the presence of some heavy economic hitters. During their trip to California last week, the Belize delegates discussed the possibility of investment by the big dot com companies.

Ralph Fonseca

“We are hoping that we’ll be able to attract some more high technology into Belize and particularly into the zone. For instance the processing of information. The Prime Minister and myself met with some of the biggest players in the information technology industry in Silicone Valley just a few days ago. People like Jerry Yang from Yahoo and these types of people, and they’re all interested in coming to Belize, looking at this area, seeing what they could do to be internationally competitive. That’s what we’re talking about, moving toward being internationally competitive, to face the ties of globalization.”

If all goes according to plan–and that’s a big if–then the Corozal Free Zone may be the place where Belize and the new global economy will meet. Reporting for News Five, I am Jose Sanchez.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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