Belize Chamber of Commerce Speaks on Amendments to PetroCaribe Bill

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Updated: May 18, 2015

The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry has written to the Prime Minister. The letter, dates May 14 and is in response to Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s letter he sent to the past President of the BCCI, Kay Menzies in regards to the PetroCaribe Loans Act. In the letter President, Arturo Vasquez, points out that the Chamber is not against the PetroCaribe Loan Initiative. The BCCI tells the Prime Minister that what good governance entails is the reporting of how monies are spent and Government’s assets maintained by the Government. That good governance, says Vasquez, must have the complete oversight of several agencies including the Office of the Auditor General, and the Public Accounts Committee. Last week, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced several amendments to the Act that would take effect in June when the House of Representative meets.

ARTURO VASQUEZArturo Vasquez

“I think he’s addressing some concerns. I think he is addressing the fact that it could form a part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.  I think he is also addressing the spending; he’s a little more specific as to what the spending will be on. He’s also referring to the fact that he would report quarterly on what has been borrowed those are some of the things that I have seen reading the transcript of the news I have not seen any amendments and I am sure those amendments would need the legal interpretations as well.”

HIPOLITO NOVELO

“In terms of reporting back to the public every three months is this something that BCCI welcomes?”

ARTURO VASQUEZ

“Reporting is one thing because it shows a bit of transparency and accountability on the part of the Government but I think if you look at the Bill, unless I missed it, I think that Section 3.1 which is a part of the Bill, in my view has not really been addressed and that is really where it says that Government is to borrow money from the PetroCaribe in any amounts without authority of the National Assembly. I don’t think that section was addressed so the little that I know from this point as I said, only hearing it on the news, I don’t think the Government can borrow whatever amount that they want, has been addressed. I think what he has addressed really is that it will form a part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund which will go through all the audit checks that the Consolidated Revenue does require and again he broadened the spending a little bit or at least made specific some of the spending that he had verbally said that they would do.  Now, I think he is proposing to put it in the Bill and again the quarterly borrowing, those are the things that I heard or what I can see from it but I haven’t seen the amendments as yet. The Prime Minister said that all these things were said before and now he is spelling it out. Let’s face it, as an attorney he should know that anything in black and white is what you should get.  It’s not a matter of just assuming or alluding to something but actually putting it in black and white. He also said that I can spend large and put the money in my pocket, I’ll be honest with you I don’t think anybody ever said or thought that there was anything like that being said. It was always about being open and transparent with the people. I don’t think there was anything said along the lines of him taking money and putting it in his pocket.

Vasquez also points out that the BCCI was involved in lobbying for the passing of the Finance and Audit Reform Act of 2005. However, Vasquez tells Prime Minister Dean Barrow that the PetroCaribe Loans Act goes against everything that was fought for and it quotes, “represents a reversal of all that was attained by the FARA”, the Finance and Audit Reform Act.