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PM Briceno Speaks on the Stevedore’s Plight with the Port of Belize Limited

Agriculture Minister Jose Mai came under fire after comments he made offended stevedores and their supporters. Minister Mai appeared on Love TV’s The Morning Show and was asked about BSI’s decision to use Big Creek Port instead of Port of Belize. The stevedores are not happy with the decision because it means that their income will be negatively impacted. Mai said that the stevedores should find something else to do. He has explained that he didn’t mean to offend the stevedores but was simply highlighting the fact that many Belizeans, who have lost their jobs have managed to diversify into another area of employment. This was reiterated by the Prime Minister. PM John Briceno says that an average cane cutters make far less under the hot son than a stevedore.

John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “I find it insulting to the stevedores that you will tell them because they don’t get a job they will go to a life of crime. Look at the cane farmers, look at the cane farming industry, the sugar industry in 1984/85, when the Esquivel government shutdown Libertad our farmers did not turn to crime. They continued working on trying to find how they can retool themselves and what is it they can do differently. And the same thing will apply to the stevedores. I believe that they are hardworking law abiding citizens, and not because they don’t have, they lose their job – well it’s not that they’re losing their jobs as stevedores, they’re going to be earning less money. But do you realize that a stevedore makes more money than a cane farmer? The goal of our government is as soon as we believe that the economy is fully on its feet we will raise the minimum wage to $5. But my point is, my point is, is that it’s not a matter of putting the stevedores versus the cane farmers, the point is that the sugar industry is going through its own crisis with the low prices and it has become unsustainable to be able to continue to the load their sugar the way it has been done over the decades. I think that who we need to be responsible is to hold Port of Belize because Port of Belize has done nothing to improve their facilities so that they could make it easier, faster, more efficient and more safer to be able to load the sugar at Port of Belize. And secondly I need to point out that this year, 35% of the sugar is still going to be loaded at the Port of Belize and goal is that next year, we expect to load 50% of the sugar at the port or Belize.”