The People’s United Party has weighed in on the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice regarding the BTL Arbitration Award. Opposition Leader, John Briceno turned the tables on Prime Minister Dean Barrow as he cited the meeting held with Lord Michael Ashcroft in Miami, Florida last September in which an arrangement was made in the settling of the BTL nationalization; Briceno refers to it as a secret deal.
“Look at BTL, the Prime Minister had his own secret agreement, he went on his own, sat in a room in a hotel somewhere in Miami and decided that he is going to sign on to an agreement because he wanted to win a third term not knowing what would be the cost of his signature; come to Belize, inform his cabinet and then afterwards go to the house as if he had done something good. We are seeing now the true cost of what BTL is costing the Belizean people: $557 million dollars, that is what he signed off for a company that is worth a little over $100 million dollars. Six years of litigation, tens of millions of dollars have been paid to UDP cronies and family members. They have benefited on the backs of Belizeans and we cannot forgive the Prime Minister for making such a blunder that now we have over a billion dollars that we have to pay for a company whose profits have gone down by almost half since they took it over.”
Briceno says that the entire nationalization matter is a sad situation as the financial burden will bear down on the Belizean people and for that reality, he will not rejoice.
“It is unfortunate that we had that ruling. I am in no way rejoicing that the government has to pay $67 million US because we know that there is a shortage of US dollars. We know that it’s no other than the government’s banker, the governor of the Central Bank that wrote a letter I think it was in July to the Financial Secretary saying that they cannot afford to give out these US dollars because then our 2:1 peg is going to be threatened and that there could be a devaluation. If you talk to the business people every one of them will tell you that they cannot get access to US dollars because there is a shortage in US dollars. The economy contracted by 1.5% over the first six months and this is when we had all the economic activity could you imagine what we are going to go through now when everything has slowed down? So now because again of the arrogance of the Prime Minister feeling that he knows more than anybody signed on to something knowing full well that he has to pay in US dollars and then decides that he is going to pay in Belize dollars now taken to court and the court says that he has to pay in US dollars. I am not rejoicing for the loss of the government because all of us are Belizeans first and foremost but this is in the hands of the Prime Minister he more than anybody else along with his UDP government they must be held responsibility for this recklessness of an agreement that they signed on to.”
Incidentally, Briceno had granted this interview at the launch of the PUP’s Good Governance agenda this afternoon at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City. We will tell you more about that agenda later in our newscast.