Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2016. 6:47 p.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: Work it out! That is what a three-judge panel of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) advised the attorneys representing Dunkeld International Investments and the Government of Belize to do with all possible speed after listening to two hours of arguments by video-conference between their Port of Spain office and the Belize Supreme Court this morning. Dunkeld has challenged the Government’s interpretation following the payment of the first half of the award settled by the Permanent Court of International Arbitration on July eighth.
Dunkeld’s attorney, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, said the Court wanted them to report back on Monday – if no settlement was reached, they would step in. Minutes later, his opposite number, Senior Counsel Denys Barrow, explained that Government must make Dunkeld understand the importance of the Accomodation Agreement portion of the payment being used in and benefiting ordinary Belizeans.
The Government has said that the tribunal divided the award into a forty-sixty ratio; forty percent of the total representing the non-Accommodation Agreement portion and sixty percent representing the Accommodation Agreement portion. But government’s interpretation is that the lion’s share of the total figure is owed in Belize dollars and can only be spent to fund projects in Belize for the benefit of Belizeans.
Not so fast! That latter figure may in fact be far less, and moreover, that language does not appear in the agreement. But the Government’s attorney still believes that Belmopan’s intentions were good, though their execution was awry.
Courtenay also told us that he and other attorneys were fully involved in the composition, amendment and final approval of the settlement agreement.
Senior Counsel Denys Barrow meanwhile tried to defend Government’s actions. He took the surprising view that the entire agreement was unworkable from the very beginning, but rather than scrap it or try to work it out before going to court, Government took a risk – and it backfired.
There were also differing views on whether the Government can adhere to paying the remaining portion of the award due to Dunkeld in U.S. dollars, and should have paid the first instalment in American greenbacks. As we previously reported, the Central Bank’s Governor, Glenford Ysaguirre, wrote Financial Secretary Joseph Waight on July twenty-second, reporting that “The Dunkeld and Trust requirements would take the demand up to U.S. two hundred and sixty-three million. A recent increase in net outflows has caused the gross official reserves to shrink from U.S. five hundred and thirty-four point seven million one year ago, to U.S. four hundred and twenty-two million today. To address the demands above, along with the additional demands of Dunkeld and the Trust, would immediately push the reserves to crisis levels.” He added that such a move would be destructive for the economy of Belize. However, Dunkeld and its attorney Eamon Courtenay are not exactly in a mood to be forgiving, even as Denys Barrow told us it was a question of priorities.
Courtenay said that his client would look at any proposal that the Government makes for settling this aspect of the award. Barrow meanwhile stated that Government has never shirked from paying any aspect of the award, subject to the financial crunch that the country is currently in.
But the concern over the cash crunch is real for Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, who confirmed that Government must borrow further to complete the second payment for the B.T.L. Arbitration Award – one hundred and fifty million dollars more.
Waight did not give specifics but indicated that this latest borrowing will likely come “from the banks and the public.” He also indicated that Government was committed to this course and would find ways of repaying the money over time. Since the start of their third term in office, Government has raised the ceiling on treasury bonds and notes several times, in an effort to raise cash to meet various debts.
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