Senator Osmany Salas representing the non-governmental organizations rose to support the ratification of the UN Convention saying that he had done his research and that it is clear that Belize does require urgent debt relief.
Osmany Salas, NGO Senator: “I had no problem, no doubt in my mind that this motion to authorize resolution of the New York Convention on arbitral awards needed to be supported. I was able to confirm from a previous high level government official that indeed as Senator Courtenay said in his remarks this process started under the previous administration as part of the process to set up debt relief for conservation mechanisms. So anything that will contribute to shaving off our debt which we heard today is at $5.5 BILLION dollars I will support because we are in a huge hole and we need to be as I said in my remarks as creative as we can to bring this debt down. So yes I had that assurance and I have no reason not to believe what I was told.”
Renee Trujillo, Love News: Have you been privy to any of the details in terms of that negotiation ?
Osmany Salas, NGO Senator: “No no”.
Renee Trujillo, Love News: So you will not be able to tell what are the pros and cons of such ?
Osmany Salas, NGO Senator: “Well the pros is that we will have.”
Renee Trujillo, Love News: Yes but the cons. What are we sacrificing ?
Osmany Salas, NGO Senator: “I do not have the details. As I told you I haven’t been privy to the details but that is what has been said and that is what a previous high level official in the Ministry of Finance under the previous government confirmed that indeed this process of negotiation started in the previous administration and is a requirement by the US government for political risk insurance that the private investor needs to be able to continue with this process.”
Renee Trujillo, Love News: Prior to today’s sitting did you consult with your NGO members ?
Osmany Salas, NGO Senator: “Of course so my vote if it had come down to a vote would have been an assured yes with the support of the Belize Network of NGOs definitely.”
Renee Trujillo, Love News: Did they express any concerns however ?
Osmany Salas, NGO Senator: “No concerns but just the understanding that we need debt relief. We need debt relief there’s no doubt about that.”
Senator Salas went on to speak on the economic crisis that the country is in. He says he blames both the past two administrations for the current situation.
Osmany Salas, Senator: “What struck me in the previous presentation is how much money we owe. When we add the foreign and domestic debt we owe about five thousand five hundred million dollars, $5.5 billion dollars with a B. I’ll repeat it in millions, five thousand five hundred million dollars. Debt to GDP ratio has ballooned to an unsustainable 135% and it’s continuing to go up. So why I repeat those figures is that especially because of the situation in which we are facing. It is the obligation of government whichever party is in power to get as creative as possible to reduce our debt obligation; as creative as possible. And I wish I didn’t have to mention the name of Lord Ashcroft and it’s a pity that just the mention of his name has taken up so much up to now of the discussion but if we listen intently the debt owed to him under 20% of our entire debt obligation which again I repeat is $5.5 billion dollars. So this thing is larger than Lord Ashcroft and I wish the day will come when we don’t have to mention his name but you know what we have to continue mentioning his name for years to come simply because of how much is owed to this individual and his companies. So do we really think as a country that we can continue to just disregard our obligations while it continues to rack up and rack up ? For how long, to what point ? It’s incredible it’s like we’re kicking the can down the road to future generations. Is that responsible ? It’s highly irresponsible and blame can be thrown all around as to why we are where we are right now- all around. In relation to the UHS related debt it’s a previous PUP administration was responsible for that because of a government guarantee that was signed for a medical facility that does not belong to the government and people of Belize. The UDP administration that followed in it’s, as far as I see it, it’s obstinacy to deal with the issue it’s refusal to negotiate this debt ballooned from $35 million to close to $100 million and that’s just one of them we’re talking about.”