BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 4, 2018– The House of Representatives will hold its first meeting for the New Year tomorrow, Friday, and included in the business of the day will be a motion that Prime Minister Dean Barrow will table for the disbursement of the 90 million dollars that the Caribbean Court of Justice ordered the Belize Government to pay to the Belize Bank.
Amandala has learned that the motion will only be tabled, and no member will be allowed to speak on the motion, except for PM Barrow, who will table it.
As many as nine United Democratic Party (UDP) government ministers have indicated that they will not vote in support of the motion, and PM Barrow had indicated at one of his press conferences that he would allow his cabinet ministers to vote their conscience. The Prime Minister went even further, when he characterized the debt as immoral.
The Belize Government came to owe the 90 million dollars after a loan note was signed in secret under the People’s United Party government that was led by Prime Minister Said Musa. Musa signed the loan note and committed the government to pay the loan of the then Universal Healthcare Partners (UHS), if the hospital defaulted on its loan obligation with the Belize Bank.
When the UDP came into power in 2008, however, Prime Minister Barrow insisted that the government would not pay the loan note. The matter was adjudicated in the Supreme Court and the court ruled that it would be against public policy to pay the loan guarantee to the bank. When the case was taken to the Belize Court of Appeal, the court ruled in agreement with the Supreme Court that the loan guarantee was not valid.
The Belize Government, however, was not yet off the hook with the debt and the case was eventually taken to the London Court of International Arbitration, which ruled against the government. The government did not defend itself at the arbitration proceedings.
The case eventually found its way to the London Privy Council, which at the time was Belize’s highest court of appeal. The Privy Council ruled against the Belize Government, but still the government would not budge on making the payment to the bank.
The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which had replaced the London Privy Council as Belize’s highest court, eventually heard the case and handed down its ruling on November 22, 2017. The CCJ, however, did not make a specific order for payment, but stated in its judgment that Belize’s Parliament has to approve the issuing of the funds to make the payment to the bank.
The Opposition People’s United Party has not formulated an official position on the payment of the judgment debt, but some PUP parliamentarians are of the view that the government should pay the debt, which continues to accrue at 17 percent, in line with the court judgment.
Prime Minister Barrow and his government are now faced with a real existential problem: will the government uphold the rule of law and adhere to the judgment of the country’s highest court, or will they continue to stall and allow the 90 million-dollar-debt to grow bigger, with the added interest charges that are building up for every month the judgment debt is not paid off.