The Prime Minister has officially responded, with some strong words, to a statement issued by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). During Prime Minister’s press conference yesterday, the BCCI fired off a statement which essentially advised the Government of Belize to follow the rule of law and pay the ninety million dollars UHS debt to the Belize Bank Limited. In a letter sent to the BCCI President, Nikita Usher, PM Barrow criticized the Chamber for being “hypocritical and dishonest”. The Prime Minister wrote quote, “It was, as your ex-President reminded the nation yesterday, the Chamber (together with others) that first went to court to challenge the PUP guarantee and loan note. So, it was right for the Chamber to resist, and win, but not right for the UDP to do the same after “the investor” got an international award?” End of quote. The Prime Minister believes that the BCCI’s contention is that the Government should have quote, “stopped resisting and caved as soon as “the investor” got the international arbitration award.end of quote. Usher told Love News that the bottom line is that the debt has to be paid and all the Prime Minister is doing, is ‘kicking the pan down the road.’
Nikita Usher – President of BCCI
“The Government made the CCJ the final court of Belize and when you make that court become your final court then in the business world as far as I’m aware that becomes your final ruling. So the ruling that came is now telling Belize that all the other rulings that you’ve had before are on right and you are now owing $90 million dollars. What the bottom line has to be realized by Belizeans and the business community is that at the end of the day Belize has to pay $90 million dollars. The press conference yesterday by the Prime Minister is simply kicking or moving the bucket down the road for another Prime Minister to deal with but at the end of the day all of us Belizeans will be saddled with a $90 million dollar bill and the longer we take to pay it the more the interest becomes. So I don’t know if that is being dishonest or hypocritical or colonial as far as we are concerned the point we are raising is that we are saddled with a debt whether we pay today, a year from today, ten years from today the debt doesn’t get erased. To use an analogy if you go to Courts tomorrow and you go and buy and decide that you don’t want to continue paying does that mean that you can stop paying? Court will use the court system to take you to the courts and you would be ruled that you are owing and have to pay otherwise they will seize properties- there is no difference for Belize. That is the point that has to be stuck home, that is the point that the Belize Chamber of Commerce continues to maintain. We are saying that the rule of law is the correct way to go and if the last court that you have applied to the CCJ and they have now ruled I don’t know if there is any court above the CCJ in Belize’s jurisdiction and therefore if the rule of law is to be maintained it would require– and by the mere fact that the government is taking it to the parliament also tells me or also signifies that they themselves recognize that it is the last court and they are following what the rule of law is. Now how will it be voted that is what parliamentarians must now decide.”
Prior to the CCJ ruling earlier in the week, the Supreme Court of Belize and the Court of Appeal both ruled in Government’s favor and that is all the UDP needs, says Barrow, to vindicate its position against what he described as a rotten deal. The Prime Minister wrote quote, “And it is in stark contrast to the vacillation, inconstancy and bird-of-passage weakness of the Chamber.” End of quote.
“One of the questions that the Prime Minister posed to you in his letter was “In view of your principle would you recommend to your membership an increase in taxes on the business sector to raise the monies for what you now see as a debt of honor.”
Nikita Usher – President of BCCI
“Well you know had the Prime Minister and the government of Belize sat down with us when we are doing the budgets a year ago when we made twenty-one pages of recommendations we would not be at this point in time. The point I’m raising right now is that we have a stagnant economy, all of these debts have to be borne by Belizeans and the business community to the point that he raises in the last paragraph ‘are we prepared to raise taxes?’ we have always been saying that tax administration is the weakest link is not the need to raise taxes its how to administer taxes. There are loopholes in our tax systems that need to be covered, that need to be caulked, those loopholes can give us sufficiently in our opinion revenues to continue to operate. But you see the first angle that the government always comes at is that we need to raise taxes because that is the easiest way but our point has always been let us sit down, collectively as a group and look at some of the administrative functions that are failing us, we maintain that position.”
The matter will be taken before parliament to be voted on.