Foreign Consultants Respond to Questions on Possible Bias Against Waterloo Project
When all is said and done, perhaps one of the main questions, is whether government is giving a hard time because of the key person behind Waterloo – which is Lord Michael Ashcroft. It is no secret that Ashcroft has cost the Belizean tax payers millions of dollars in lawsuits – a real part of Belize’s economic history that many will not forget anytime soon. This question was posed to the two foreign consultants; here is how they responded.
Jelle Prins, Representative, Piedroba Consulting Group: “We aren’t Belizeans but we’ve been around for quite a bit that we do understand some of the sentiments that you expressed and quite frankly for a while we were wondering why are the cards stacked against us? Is it because of something like that? Is it maybe because something else happened with another project? The answer is now we know why. We know why because of what happened with the definitive agreement and how it expedited our competitors’ environmental approval. There are clauses in that agreement that are binding as far as how the environmental process, which is supposed to be independent, science-based, was to be pursued. And that’s the irrationality of it all. So I appreciate the question and I understand to some extent some of the sentiments that you express but we don’t feel that was the case.”
Luis Prieto Munoz, Representative, Piedroba Consulting Group: “We ultimately approached this from a technical place. I mean, we came in here with the perspective of this is an incredible piece of infrastructure. We wanted to be a part of that team. We became a part of that team and we’ve been on board for many years now. And as I mentioned, we’ve dealt with projects throughout the region. Inevitably, a lot of these projects are always one proponent or another but I think a very important element of any regulatory process is that it is blind to those things. It is merit-based and that it should be a project, a project’s approval should be based on its, the facts. It should be based on its scale. It should be based on its merits and it should be based on the diligence of the teams putting together the work. It should not be based on influence on reputation because those are ephemeral and unknowable topics which are changed from one day to the next and that shouldn’t be the way that a country develops its infrastructure and modernizes its infrastructure. And we were told at many instances throughout this process, because we obviously didn’t do this absent in a void of regulatory conversations. We had many, many meetings with regulators, with regulatory authorities, with ministries, with cabinet subcommittees, and we were assured at every turn that we would be judged on our merits. We would be judged on the hard work that the team put together. We would be judged on the studies that we produced.”
The media did ask Prime Minister Briceno to comment on today’s press conference, but he would only say that this is a free country and Waterloo has the right to hold press conferences.