COLA: Consult Belizeans before selling utility shares
Posted: June 29, 2016. 9:40 a.m. CST.
By Aaron Humes.: The sale of 55 million dollars in shares in Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) and Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) appears to be a done deal between Government and the Social Security Board (SSB), after approval was received last week from the latter’s Board of Directors.
But in the eyes of Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA), there are still quite a few questions to be answered. Today it issued a press release calling for the immediate halt of the sale until public consultations can be held countrywide.
Now SSB has never held anything like a public consultation on its many investments despite being described as the workers’ fund.
Today we asked the organization’s president, Geovannie Brackett, what good that would do and in response he cited the outcry against a planned loan to Santander Group to cover a financial shortfall earlier this year which caused that transaction to fall through. At the very least, he said, Belizeans and pensioners in particular deserved to be heard on this issue.
Brackett says today’s release was also copied to the trade unions, who have representation on the Board and its Investment Committee and who have not spoken publicly about whether they backed the deal.
As People’s United Party (PUP) leader John Briceno did last week, Brackett tied the announcement of the deal to rumours of a Governmental shortfall economically and accused the administration of seeing the Social Security funds as a “bailout”.
COLA’s release also questions whether in Telemedia’s case, Nestor Vasquez, who chairs the Investment Committee for SSB, and Anwar Barrow, who is a Government representative on the Board of Directors, refrained from participating in the vote to avoid a clear conflict of interest with their respective positions in BTL – Vasquez as overall chairman and Anwar Barrow as chair of BTL’s Executive Committee. It also refers to the still-unsettled question of full payment to the Ashcroft Alliance for Telemedia.
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