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‘BTL must learn to compete,’ says P.M. as Barrow’s words come back to haunt him

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Posted: Saturday, August 28, 2021. 10:30 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Was the current contretemps over Belize Telemedia Limited and SMART foreshadowed by the man who brought back the former to national control at high cost from Lord Michael Ashcroft?

While current Prime Minister John Briceno insists he “has nothing to do with SMART” as he told KREM News’ Marisol Amaya this week, the Opposition United Democratic Party has been making hay of a statement by predecessor Dean Barrow in the House of Representatives.

Asking then what would happen if Briceno ever became Prime Minister in respect of the competition between the companies, Barrow answered himself this way: “He is going to try to hobble BTL; it is going to be a sell-out all over again. They can’t probably physically sell it, because it’s in the Constitution; but Madam Speaker, I can bet, they will absolutely undercut BTL for SMART. That is what the people of this country must remember.”

But Barrow is hardly Nostradamus, Briceno warned: “I think that Dean Barrow is going to be the Prime Minister that allowed the people and Government of Belize to be fleeced over BTL. That is going to be the history.”

The more than half a billion paid out for the company in 2017 and 2018 is gone for good, Briceno said, and despite its exalted Constitutional position, “BTL is a private company and they need to learn to compete.”

As an example, Briceno pointed to the Internet for Schools program which he said charged the Government $2,095 per school per month for 500 Megs of Internet data; his company Centaur Communications, he said, could offer it for roughly a quarter of that amount at $500.

But while BTL is no longer getting all of the Government’s business, Briceno said, it has not been completely abandoned. Some of the brightest business minds in Belize, including chairman Mark Lizarraga, have been brought in to “rescue” the country and position it to better compete with the likes of SMART and others, as seen with the recent Microsoft license showdown.

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