Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2020. 3:43 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Belize has been on the hook for up to $750 million related to court and other judgments for the acquisitions of various Ashcroft-related concerns – Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), the debt of the former Universal Health Services (UHS), and now the registries under Belize International Services Limited (BISL).
But Prime Minister Dean Barrow still maintains it was all worth it.
He placed it in the context of “considerations of nationalism, in terms of the moral imperative that I thought drove us to resist what were clearly nefarious deals, not in the best interest of the people of this country.”
Concerning BTL, the P.M. reminded that the safeguards set by former Prime Minister Sir Manuel Esquivel were “completely violated” to allow Ashcroft et. al. to take over, and the fight to get it back was “absolutely necessary: I would have felt that I was not being true to the oath I swore if I did not pursue that.”
And as for the price paid – roughly $550 million – and those who suggest that BTL wasn’t worth that price, Barrow questioned why it was that the former owners claimed as much as three times that amount and presented experts who justified those claims, and was “hopping mad” when the Arbitration Tribunal in London did not buy it.
What we now have, Barrow said, is a company “that over the long haul will more – and has shown that, already, by its track record – will more than pay for the price that we had to give over to Ashcroft in consequence of our nationalization.” And, he added, after a long freeze, dividends are being paid out to all shareholders. In his (Ashcroft’s) mind, the P.M. concluded, it was a loss all told for him.
The Government is making money off the registries and the investment that was made will pay off over the long run, Barrow said, and Belize has resolved its problems with the European Union regarding tolerance for illegal fishing, contraband and so on.
And as for UHS, the opposition still cannot explain, Barrow said, why they took a loan to keep the operation afloat in order to satisfy alleged ‘cronies’ of the P.U.P., and the people of Belize will not forgive nor forget how monies from Taiwan and Venezuela were diverted to pay the loan (which was not ultimately paid).
“There is a thing called dignity; there is a thing called sovereignty; there is a thing called nationalism that you can’t put a price on,” Barrow reiterated, adding that he hopes the United Democratic Party continue to maintain their stance against the payment and wondering how the PUP will explain such a vote if they agree after winning Government.
Back to the registries: Barrow said any court would understand that in Belize’s current situation, it did not have the resources to pay, and would not force one to do so. And as for any plans to pay, he said it would await the actual fixing of damages and the expected appeal process, and the final decision would not be his. As he pointed out, the Court of Appeal has canceled its sessions this year so far so a judgment from them would be delayed from the Supreme Court’s decision even if it came this year.
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