Now that the Government of Belize has reached agreement with Norwegian Cruise Lines for a 25-year development concession for its proposed pleasure island at Harvest Caye, it seems only right and fair that it should give similar favourable consideration to proposals for Stake Bank and North Drowned Caye.
The Stake Bank/North Drowned Caye project is a much bigger undertaking with greater long-term significance for Belize than Harvest Caye. It is a complete development project with important housing and real estate components as well as tourist implications for north and central Belize.
The Feinstein Group project, like the Harvest Caye project, calls for development of a pleasure island for tourists with a deep water port for cruise ships, but it envisions something much grander – a deep water port which can be expanded to become a maritime hub for ocean-going vessels, with a causeway link to the mainland.
Here are a few considerations in favour of the project:
1. The Feinstein Group of investors is one hundred percent Belizean, with an unmatched track record for entrepreneurship and management. It has a right to be heard and be taken seriously.
2. The project is practical and viable, with impressive economic benefits in areas of tourism development, long-term employment, real estate and housing expansion for Belize City.
3. The investors have already spent millions in engineering and feasibility studies and have obtained the financial backing to guarantee the viability of the project, which will surpass anything the Harvest Caye project is capable of.
4. These investors already own the land at Stake Bank, which is able to provide safe anchorage for up to a depth of 30 feet, and North Drowned Caye, which because of its nearness to the mainland, offers the prospect of a land link to Belize City.
5. This project has the capacity to generate hundreds, perhaps thousands of good paying, permanent jobs for Belizeans, and increase and enhance the tourism experience which Belize has to offer.
On the flip side of this picture, the project has to contend with a few concerns of environmental importance.
1. It will be necessary to do some dredging. Most deep sea ports need to be dredged every now and then to maintain water depth, and Stake Bank will be no exception. This will raise some concerns from environmentalists because of the nearby reef system. Firm assurances will have to be given to protect Belize’s unique reef system.
2. Careful attention will have to be given to the plan for an elevated concrete causeway several feet above the water. This proposed causeway has already undergone extensive engineering scrutiny, but more may be necessary to allay concerns about safety for water-born traffic and free maritime movement in Belize’s coastal waters.
Back in the early days of Belize’s development, the Settlement was very much a sea-faring community. Baymen settlers were so confident in their own prowess of seamanship that they voted to take on a Spanish flotilla of more than 30 ships in an epic confrontation which ended in the Battle of St. George’s Caye in 1798.
We need some of that spirit of entrepreneurship in our development planning today, to remind ourselves that no great enterprise is ever accomplished by hanging back and creating doubts.