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August 2014

Miami’s port tunnel


Miami’s port tunnel to open in August

ggarvin@ MiamiHerald.com

More than two months and $7 million in contractor fines after it was supposed to open, Port Miami’s billion-dollar tunnel is finally about ready to handle traffic, officials said Thursday.

“It’ll be open in early August, no later than two weeks from today,” said Chris Hodgkins, vice president of MAT Concessionaire, the consortium of companies that built the tunnel and will operate it.

The tunnel was scheduled to debut on May 19, pulling a projected 16,000 port-bound vehicles a day off Miami’s downtown streets. But various glitches, including malfunctioning exhaust fans and a leaking drainage pipe, have prevented it from opening.

“I know it’s a cliché, but whether it’s your kitchen or a tunnel under Biscayne Bay, you don’t let the contractor leave until everything’s perfect,” Hodgkins said, reciting a phrase that’s become a mantra to nearly everybody connected with the tunnel project over the past two months.

The contractor, Paris-based Bouygues, has been paying a fine of $115,000 to MAT Concessionaire every day the tunnel remains closed. At the same time, the Florida Department of Transportation has delayed beginning its $33 million annual payment to the concessionaire until the tunnel opens.

But a flurry of activity in the past few days has signaled that the tunnel is nearing completion. On Wednesday, workers finished the major surgery necessary to fix the drainage leak: a 2,000-foot trench, ripped through 15 inches of cement, four inches of asphalt and 15 feet of compacted concrete, where a new polyethylene pipe was laid.

“To be honest, it was pretty heartbreaking to see our brand new road torn up like that,” said a still chastened Hodgkins.

The first pipe was shredded and splintered in places by heavy machinery that passed over it when the tunnel surface was still just a dirty road. Three times, workers unsuccessfully tried to fix it with new linings. Finally a new pipe was laid alongside the first one. It passed a final pressure test Wednesday.

“We didn’t want a fixed pipe,” said Hodgkins. “We wanted a new pipe…. We are accepting nothing less than perfection. We’re going to be operating this thing 30 years.”

Meanwhile, about 30 of the 44 jet fans that were removed from the tunnel have been replaced, and installation of the rest is under way. Two of the fans failed shortly after being turned on in May and the rest were taken out as a precaution.

After extensive testing, MAT officials concluded that the fans were the victim of a series of quality-control errors, ranging from the use of different nuts and bolts than called for in the design to incorrect torque (in laymen’s terms, the bolts weren’t tightened right.)

Their reinstallation is being overseen by an independent company not associated with either the firm that manufactured the fans nor the firm installing them.

The west-bound side of the tunnel, where virtually all work is completed, looked pristine Thursday. The east-bound side, where fans are still being installed and cosmetic work to disguise the carnage wreaked on the road by the pipe repair is under way, was busier and messier.

Workmen perched atop 23-foot lifts bolted the new fans into place as crews hauled portable generators from spot to spot for testing. Tarps placed on the road to catch stray cement from the patchup of pavement torn away in the pipe repair were still scattered here and there.

And amidst it all, the seemingly endless testing and tweaking of emergency systems continued.

“We have to be ready for every possible scenario,” Hodgkins said. That lesson was drummed home when the engine of very first cargo truck to pass through the tunnel during a purely symbolic opening ceremony on May 19 featuring a speech by Gov. Rick Scott shuddered and died in the middle of the tunnel.

“Happily, we had our tow truck right there,” Hodgkins said. Since then, the emergency systems haven’t had to deal with anything more serious than the occasional rogue bicyclist who defies the big CLOSED signs and pedals into the tunnel.

Continue reading “Miami’s port tunnel”

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Trade Finance Research


As of July 1st, 2014, the EXPORTBelize Unit has undertaken a new initiative that is investigating the current financial infrastructure of Belize, and more specifically, how it caters to exporters. The primary objective of the initiative is to amplify the amount of Trade Finance services being utilized in the country. Simply put, Trade Finance refers to a specific type of lending or credit issued to commercial enterprises that allows for secure and efficient international transactions. The initiative will work closely with the financial sector of the economy to better understand the services that are available, how they are being used, and what needs to be adapted. Additionally, the initiative is working closely with the exporters of Belize to explore how Belizeans have thus far engaged in trade finance and also, how their needs are, or are not, being met. From this research a pilot program for Trade Finance facilitation in Belize will be constructed. The program will recommend the best-suited trade finance services for the Belize financial sector and outline the necessary steps for their implementation. It will also provide a guide to accessing the correct Trade Finance services for your business. With the completion of this initiative, sharing your product with the rest of the word will be easier than ever!

As stakeholder engagement is a key component of this initiative, we ask that active participants in the productive sector take the time to complete a short survey of 12 multiple-choice questions. Please follow the link below:

http://200.32.211.74/limesurvey/index.php/839198/lang-en

The research is being led by our international intern, Arthur Staub, who will also serve as the primary contact person. If you would like to be further involved in this process, please contact Mr. Staub at arthur@belizeinvest.org.bz.

FINPYME ExportPlus


BELTRAIDE in collaboration with the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IDB) and our partners Scotia Bank and the Belize Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI) launched FINPYME ExportPlus in March of this year. FINPYME ExportPlus provides Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with technical assistance so that they can better access export markets. Under the ExportPlus, we are currently implementing a program entitled Strategic Planning: How to build a plan for Internationalization.

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To date participants have benefited from technical assistance and workshops on the following topics:

  1. Food Safety
  2. Project Management
  3. Strategic Planning
  4. Business Plan Development

The next activity under FINPYME Export Plus is an E-Business workshop taking place on August 1st at the George Price Center. The workshop will focus on international marketing and how to communicate effectively with customers abroad along with e-promotion and e-sales.  

In November, an Export Forum will be held whereby participants of the Strategic Planning program will be presenting their export plans to financial institutions including the IDB. Participants will have the opportunity to receive technical assistance or access financing in order to implement their projects.

 

The Importance of Attracting Foreign Direct Investment


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In a place where business and nature blends in harmony, investors will find that Belize holds a well-crafted investment profile focusing on: Sustainable Tourism, Medical Tourism, Agribusiness (including Agro-Processing), Information Technology-enabled Services (including Business Process Outsourcing), and Renewable Energy. To date, the Government of Belize has undertaken several initiatives aiming at establishing a holistic supporting framework for the development of these sectors. Some of these initiatives include:

National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan

Belize continues to witness robust growth in its tourist arrivals. The aim of the Master Plan is to strengthen the sector’s contribution to the national economy by enhancing the tourism experience and resource sustainability, diversifying tourism products in emerging destinations for the overnight tourism market, and strengthening tourism institutions for policy, destination planning and management (STP Project Summary).

Medical Tourism Sector Strategy

It is well noted that in order to tap into the opportunities stemming from this sector, Belize will need to be able to deliver quality healthcare procedures, including specialized transportation, recovery and accommodation. The sector strategy thus serves as a guide in establishing the overarching regulatory framework, as well as providing support to stakeholders in the sector. In particular, the strategy outlines, in stages, the types of investment projects to be expected, degree of participation of existing clinics and hospitals, and level of involvement of foreign practitioners.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Sector Strategy

The BPO sector serves as one of the key economic pillars for Belize. In light of its importance, the sector strategy seeks to provide a holistic framework on developing the requisite infrastructural and talent pool, as well as charting a roadmap for the nurturing of a conducive operating environment.

While the above initiatives serve as a sound framework in guiding investors with interests to explore business opportunities in the selected areas, Belize’s Investment Promotion Agency, Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE), also consistently provides trainings to its staff to strengthen its capacity to facilitate investment. In addition, BELTRAIDE also actively participates in various relevant international forums where potential investors congregate, such as attendance at the recent Caribbean Hotel and Resort Investment Summit.

For more information, kindly contact BELTRAIDE at 822-3737. You can also find us on www.belizeinvest.org.bz or our Blog: http://belizeinvest.net

The Importance of Attracting Foreign Direct Investment


The Importance of Attracting Foreign Direct Investment

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Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) refers to the flow of capital from one nation (home state) to another (host state). Typically, this is done by acquiring shares in the locally established enterprise or by investing and establishing fresh ventures in the host state. In an era when globalization prevails, countries worldwide are scouting actively to attract FDI. Unlike traditional forms of debt financing, FDI serves as an ideal debt-free approach to economic development that ultimately facilitates trade, jobs creation, transfers of know-how’s and technologies in the host state.

Developing nations such as Belize, have realized the instrumental role that FDI serves in the path toward economic development. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (2006), it was noted that a rise of one percent in the ratio of the stock of FDI (to Gross Domestic Product), will raise GDP by 0.4%. It is thus well illustrated that for every dollar of FDI attracted, it will contribute about $0.50 toward the overall production of national output – hence raising the economic growth by close to half percent.

 

In light of the above, the overall rationales for attracting FDI to countries such as Belize are well documented. To date, FDI has been observed as a key source to generate employments, boosting foreign exchange earnings, facilitate trade (local and international), and trigger innovation and productivity. In short, FDI is viewed as an efficient way to attracting up-to-date technology, management practices, and even an assured market. It is thus imperative that a favorable business environment, along with consistent public policies be in good order in the quest to attracting FDI. As is, Belize has done comparatively well in fostering such a conducive business environment to attracting foreign direct investments!

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