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November 29, 2017
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Chamber slams PUP and UDP over UHS ruling

Posted: Wednesday, November 29, 2017. 11:30 a.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), in a release issues this morning, condemned “in the strongest possible terms both the previous People’s United Party (PUP) administration and the incumbent United Democratic Party (UDP) government for their respective roles in burdening taxpayers with a debt which the government has allowed to snowball to $90 million”.

The Chamber added that the PUP administration deserves criticism for contracting the original liability of $29 million and said the current administration deserves criticism for allowing interest of over $55 million to be added to the debt.

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“The sorry saga leading to the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) ruling on Wednesday, November 22nd began with the previous PUP administration’s illegitimate and irresponsible dealings in providing a clandestine government guarantee for Universal Health Services (UHS). It continued with the current UDP administration’s reckless legal gambling and resultant massive loss. At a staggering $90 million, the award now more than doubles the 2013 LCIA arbitral award of about $37 million,” the Chamber said.

BCCI referred to the UHS transaction as “utterly reprehensible” but said as the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ruled that Belize must pay, adding that Rule of Law is mandatory for proper function of any strong and healthy democracy. “…No respectable organization can countenance deliberate defiance of the country’s highest court,” the Chamber sternly noted. The BCCI further warned that a ‘no’ vote by the government in parliament “may score political points, but will not erase the liability brought upon Belize by two governments.”

“The Belizean people have seen neither fiscal nor socio-economic benefits from the various arrangements and accommodations for which we must now pay with colossal interest. Instead of necessary economic reforms, we have witnessed one government granting secret accommodations and concessions to one investor, followed by another government spending the majority of its time in office in costly litigation with that investor. Meanwhile, the private sector, the average Belizean worker and consumers, continue to pay the resulting awards while struggling to survive in a stagnant economy,” the Chamber charged.

The BCCI said the entire UHS saga emphasizes the need for proper and independent oversight to ensure responsible management of Belize’s resources. “Clearly, the mere existence of laws intended to protect Belize’s resources and ensure their proper custodianship are insufficient to ensure responsible governance by political leaders. We have no institution that can properly monitor corrupt practices by government officials, and penalties for malfeasance and outright corruption –where they exist– are weak,” it said.

The Chamber suggested that laws must be strengthened to prevent any Government from riding roughshod over public finances. “The Belizean public –who has to pay the debt– must insist on reform of our legal and financial oversight bodies. These bodies, including the Commissioner of Police, the Contractor General, the Auditor General, the Integrity Commission and the Ombudsman’s Office, should function independently of any partisan or Executive influence, and operate objectively according to the laws of Belize,” the Chamber added.

It also called on social partners and the public to join  in insisting on immediate commencement of the reforms necessary to ensure more accountable management of our country’s resources.

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