We reported last week that Senator Courtenay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration was one of the government entities that was switching its phone service from BTL to Smart. The Opposition heaped criticism on the Government for this move, reiterating – in part – the Public Service Union’s position: the decision is nepotistic and self-serving. According to Albert Area Representative Tracy Panton, the government is taking business away from itself and giving it to a company, whose interests lie closely with the Prime Minister’s family.
Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “In 2009 under the Barrow led UDP administration there were every effort taken to put the shares of BTL and BEL in the hands of our national purse. Let me say that in the case of BTL forty nine percent of the shares is owned by the Government of Belize. That is our tax payers dollars that have been invested. Another thirty four percent have been invested by SSB, that my friends are our Social Security contributions that have been invested and another eight percent by the Central Bank of Belize. Whatever proceeds we get from our foreign exchange earnings some of that have been invested in BTL. That is ninety one percent of the shares that belong to the Belizean people. I say to you that this move is the most, in my humble view, egregious display of nepotism by this current government, this Blue government, this PUP government. It’s also an assault on nationalism. Taking from the hands of ninety one percent of shares of the Belizean people to pad the profit margin of another company that last I heard eighty percent of it was owned by the Briceno family and by the Ashcroft Alliance. It is a blatant attack on Belizean investment and it is an unparalleled betrayal of every Belizean that pays their fair share of taxes even as they have to suffer a ten percent decrease in salary and wages.”
In the discussion on the issue, we quizzed Panton on whether the UDP will revert the services to BTL should it form the next government in 2025. Here’s what she had to say.
Reporter: If we have this discussion let’s say four five years down the road the government changes is it the United Democratic Party’s undertaking then to revert those services from Smart back to BTL ?
Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “Absolutely. It is the United Democratic Party that put the utility companies back in hands of the Belizeans. Let us not forget that. It is the United Democratic Party who made substantial investments in the infrastructure of BTL. Let me remind you that Smart rents space on BTL’s infrastructure to ensure that they can deliver services to the Belizean people. It is the United Democratic Party that fought long and hard to ensure that nationalism and making our utility companies a national asset a very high priority. And so there is no way we are going to not ensure t
In addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the officers within the Ministry of Rural Development, Local Government and Labour have already made the switch.