General — 17 July 2004 — by Roy Davis

Musa told those from the media who were at the conference that the demands were a last minute maneuver by the UDP. He said his government had been consulting with the Opposition about the CCJ since the beginning of this year, and no serious objection was offered.

Musa said he met with Opposition Leader, Hon. Dean Barrow on Monday, July 12, and they agreed to a referendum on the matter on both sides. Musa said that Barrow told him last night that he was unable to get the support of the executive of his party.

Despite the lack of support from the UDP, Musa said he and his government intend to move forward with the bill to establish the CCJ as Belize?s final court of appeal. He added that a president of the CCJ has already been appointed and arrangement has been made for the financing of the court.

 ?The Privy Council is fast becoming a court for a few,? said Musa.

The vote will be taken tomorrow, Friday, July 15, at the meeting of the House of Representatives for the passing of the Fifth Amendment Bill, which repeals the use of the Privy Council as Belize?s final court of appeal and allows Belize to turn to the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court of appeal.  The Constitution requires that three quarters of the members of the House of Representatives vote for the bill, in order for the Constitution to be amended.

  The PUP had the vote of three quarters of the members of the House of Representatives, but lost it when former Cayo South area representative, Agripino Cawich, died, and UDP?s John Saldivar won the by-election in that constituency. 

Musa was asked if the bond offering of US$225 million made by his Government has failed.  He said the bond offering has not failed, but Government has decided to wait, because the timing is not right. He added that the delay did not have anything to do with the quantity of the bond; it has to do with the yield.

   ?Government is ensuring that we get the best terms,? he said.

   Musa explained that the money obtained from the bond will be used mainly to restructure the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) which, he admitted, is experiencing serious cash flow problems.

   ?DFC has been useful in driving the government?s agenda to provide more houses,? said Musa.

   He explained that DFC?s cash flow problems stem from default rates on loans.

   ?Thousands of farmers and students have benefited from loans from DFC,? said Musa.

   While Government confessed that its development bank (DFC) continues to battle financial difficulties, the Prime Minister also admitted, after Channel 7?s News Director, Jules Vasquez, questioned him, that Innovative Communication Corporation (ICC) had not paid Government the US$57 million Government had borrowed to buy out BTL, to facilitate the sale to ICC?s principal, Jeffrey Prosser. Musa claimed that ICC is now esponsible for that loan, and GOB is no longer obliged to pay it. The media, however, was not presented with the documentation to support the claim that ICC is now servicing the loan.

   Musa was asked if it was true that the Mayan ruin site at Caracol would be sold, and he said, no.     

   ?No. Government has not contemplated the sale or lease of Caracol,? he replied.

   Musa said his government is prepared to entertain proposals for a resort to be built in the area to complement the site.

   He also said that it is a myth that Belize has a problem getting businessmen from abroad to make investments. He told those present at the conference that the investment climate in Belize is healthy and buoyant. To prove his point, Musa said the Carnival Cruise Line project is moving along, and added that he believes that an agreement will soon be reached with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

   In response to a complaint made about the efficiency of Belize Water Services (BWS), Musa said that it is not a far-fetched idea that Government should consider buying back BWS.

   Musa said, in reply to a question, that he has been made to understand that the American telecommuncations company, AT&T, has expressed an interest in investing in Belize.

   He pointed out that his Government has been trying to create a climate of competition, which has already served to benefit Belizeans.

   He spoke about several capital projects his Government has undertaken ? such as the construction of 115 classrooms in a period of 12 months; a continuation of highway projects; the construction of the Jordan Bridge in Toledo; the upgrading of health clinics; and a mental facility in Belmopan, to relocate patients at Gracie Rock.

   Musa said Government has improved its collection of revenue, and has come up with a small surplus.

   He also placed on record that he has made it clear to the IMF that there is no way that he and his government would go back on the commitment for salary increase for public officers.

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