On Thursday, Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno, spent some time during his budget debate presentation on what he termed as “Barrow’s BTL Fiasco”. Briceno criticized the government’s move to nationalize Belize Telemedia Limited, saying that it is not worth a billion dollars as the Prime Minister claimed. Briceno says that as real value based on profitability is considered, then Government’s 73 percent ownership of BTL is only worth 90.5 million dollars. In its totality, Briceno says that BTL is worth one hundred and twenty four million dollars. In response to Briceno, Barrow pointed out that Briceno misrepresented the figures.
Rt.Hon.Dean Barrow, Prime Minister: “And if we hadn’t nationalized BTL let me tell you how much more it would have cost, that is what he’s supposed to talk about when he talks about BTL. Madam Speaker, I have the projected profits as certified by Price Water House Coopers who were engaged by the Ashcroft Group, prepared by an Allister MacPherson who is a partner in the London Office of this international firm these are the profits that with the accommodation agreement the Ashcroft controlled BTL would have made if we had not nationalized that company and repatriated those profits. 2009, $30,517,000. 2010, $36,913,000. 2011, $40,638,000. 2012, $44,725,000. 2013, $51,284,000. 2014, $56,636,000. 2015, and it goes on to 2025 making for a grand total of one billion two hundred and eighty four thousand one hundred and seventy seven. I have the Price Water House valuation document here. That is what under the accommodation agreement if we had not stepped in this unregulated monopoly that they gave to their puppet master was going to cost the Belizean people and remember Madam Speaker now the Nationalized BTL whatever profits are made stay here at home for the Belizean people. This one billion two eighty four one seventy seven was all going to go abroad. You know what that would have done to our foreign exchange position? But Madam Speaker that is what the leader of the oppositions’ government in which he was Deputy Prime Minister did to the people of this country. Well in taking back that crown jewel of our national utilities I will insist to my dying day that this Government did what was right and what was righteous.”
Before Briceno began his portion of his budget presentation on BTL, he made his usual disclosure with regard to his family and their association with Speednet Limited. He said he did this because he knows that PM Barrow can hardly resist attacking his brother, his cousin and by extension him. Here is how Barrow responded.
Rt.Hon.Dean Barrow, Prime Minister: “I don’t think it is any coincidence that just around the time when they were giving the accomodation agreement there was this new license granted by the then government to SMART Speednet an entity that is owned jointly by the Same Ashcroft owned BTL thus extending his monopoly position and according to the leader of the opposition, members of his family. Well I’ll tell you I think it’s time we try to strip away that kind of camouflage and cover. While in terms of the actual records of shareholding this is not going to be revealed all of us with any sense know it is not just his family he himself I have no doubt is an owner of Smart Speednet. Let’s accept his position that it is not him, it is his family. Every time he comes to this national assembly and he has to talk about BTL he engages in this pious routine ‘well of course I have to declare my conflict of interest’ as though in this meal mouthed fashion, this trite formula absolves him from the fact that his conflict of interest even if it is his brother or his cousin and other family members who own Speednet and not himself, merely to declare my family’s interest cannot be enough to absolve him to get him out of the absolutely untenable position he is in as leader of the opposition. What’s going to happen if, God forbid, they were to win and he becomes Prime Minister what is he going to do with respect to BTL and Speednet at that juncture?”
According to the Prime Minster, BTL is worth some seven hundred and twenty nine million dollars.