Making waves in the news for some days was the issue of a twelve million US dollar loan to Santander Sugar from the Social Security Board. The decision by the SSB to lend the money met opposition from several pockets of society. In the case of the People’s United Party, John Briceno says the concern wasn’t so much about the loan but rather the process and procedures carried out by SSB when it comes to investments.
“Our concern was more along the lines with the protection of the people’s money or the worker’s money. Like Mr.Singh pointed out Social Security needs to find places to invest their money so that they can bring higher returns in the bank and the bank is paying 2% or 3% interest rate and if you could make an investment and have a higher rate of return that’s fine but our concern in the PUP was how safe that investment was. The $12 million dollars was a part of a $96 million dollar package and we wanted to make sure and we did not have enough information and we still don’t have enough information, we don’t have all the information that every cent of the Belizean worker is well secured, that no matter what happens that money is going to be safe. We did not have the information for us to be able to say that it is properly secured or not. When we took out a press release we were taking more the position of asking questions; are we ensuring that we are protecting the worker’s monies and secondly we wanted to make the other point asking the question of what the government’s policy in terms of investments in this country using Social Security’s monies because if you could remember around 2010 when BSI was on the verge of bankruptcy the BSCFA put together a group to study the possibility of acquiring Belize Sugar Industries for and on behalf of the farmers but to do that they needed to put in a down payment and they were attempting to borrow some money from Social Security but the Prime Minister and the government of Belize frowned on that loan and never did give any support to that loan so the farmers could not have gotten the money to be able to get that down payment and they raised the rest of the capital from investment groups in Mexico. So here we have the government lending money to a group, Santander and yes they are of Guatemalan origins and lending them but here was a group of Belizean cane farmers wanting to borrow at that time and they said no so what is the policy. We need to be very clear as to what is going to be the lending policy of the Social Security monies that they have in the banks.”
Foreign Investments, according to the Opposition Leader, John Briceno are very much supported and welcomed by his party for Belize and Santander’s investments are no different.
JOHN BRICENO: “First I want to point out, and I have gone to great lengths to make this known, that we in the PUP support foreign direct investments into this country. There are many instances where we don’t have the capital, the technology nor access to the markets so we need to get people to come in and invest in Belize and the investment , the Santander group’s investment in Belize when it comes to the sugar mill and planting several thousands of acres of sugarcane is a good one and it can have a positive effect on our country so we do support that and we do support the Santander group looking to invest in Belize.”
Santander has since withdrawn their application from the SSB and announced that they will source the funding elsewhere.