The most recent example of this was the Prime Minister?s decision to use $2.25 million of public funds to pay stamp duty for Michael Ashcroft?s purchase of shares in the Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL).
Also, there is the $20 million Central Government and Social Security lent Sunshine Holdings Trust, an Ashcroft affiliate, to purchase BTL shares from the said Government. Both have chosen to forgo payments on the loan for five years. Neither SSB nor Government will earn anything from the loan for five years. At the same time, the Government could have collected interest of up to 8.5 percent a year on this money by merely banking it. Again, this is economics that enriches the rich and impoverishes the workers who pay Social Security and taxes, as well as the poor who could have benefited more from GOB?s social programs.
No money noh deh, but money de fu certain things. While GOB can fork out millions for certain interests, including nearly $5 million for CASCAL?supposedly ?compensation? for their investment in the Belize Water Services, the public sector is hamstrung with austerity measures, including a freeze in the increments of public officers. Again, the poor get less and the rich get more.
While the Government can afford to pay out nearly $7 million to Ashcroft and CASCAL, it claims that it cannot afford $2 million to hire a foreign forensic auditor to investigate the Development Finance Corporation?a public sector bank which claims a net worth of over $600 million.
With regards to the stamp duties, we understand that they were paid into the coffers of the Belize Companies Registry, which the Government quietly privatized and moved from Belize City to Belmopan. Government gets back only a portion, the smaller portion of the stamp duties it paid; the Belize Companies Registry keeps the rest, the bigger portion.
The whole buy-back of BTL and resale to Ashcroft?s companies has been a net loss to Belizeans, but a net gain for British billionaire, Ashcroft. This is what Ashcronomics is all about.
The tally of how much Ashcroft has gained directly from the Government?s coffers is nearly $30 million – $17 million in a tax write off to the Belize Bank, a discount on the repurchase of the shares of over $10 million, and a minimal $2.25 million waiver of stamp duty payments. However, the public has further lost millions of dollars that it had to pay in bank fees for the loan that GOB got from the International Bank of Miami to buy the shares.
Apart from enriching Ashcroft, the BTL buy back has moreover reconsolidated his control of BTL. With small shareholders effectively squeezed into a corner of the company, Ashcroft can now do as he may, including hike phone rates again under the guise of ?rebalancing? tariffs. He needs no guaranteed rate of return, because, after all, he is ?the lord? of this land, and he now has the Said Musa administration not just eating out of the palm of his hand, but also licking his sores, like a dog completely subject to every command of its master.
The ?rebalancing? thing has worked well for Ashcroft?s BTL?so well that his finance prot?g?, Ralph Fonseca, put that chapter into effect three years after Ashcroft successfully implemented it.
Recall Ralph Fonseca?s 2004 budget speech, which he titled, ?Rebalancing Growth to Work for All Belizeans.? In that speech, he announced that sales tax would have been increased by one percentage point for most goods and services, but more items would be exempted. ?Ralphonomics? is a misnomer. What appears to be Ralphonomics is really Ashcronomics.
The concept of ?rebalancing? is, effectively, getting more revenues by increasing rates in some areas while dropping rates in others, or eliminating charges in others. Both Fonseca and Ashcroft had their way, despite loud outcry from the working class against it.
The ruling People?s United Party has clearly moved away from its ?Growth Economics? policies of the 1998-2003 Musa administration. According to them, their agenda was to get the economic train moving. So, the Musa administration of 1998 to 2003 borrowed more than a billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) and much of this money was pumped into the private sector, much of it through the Development Finance Corporation and under contractual agreements with select individuals and companies.
It is evident that the ?Growth Economics? program was a successful one for some in Belize. They join in singing Ashcroft?s chorus – ?We are living in a good country.?
But these are not good times for everyone. On the other end of the spectrum are those who are struggling to find their daily bread. These are primarily the working and middle classes, including public officers, teachers and security forces.
Ashcronomics differs from Growth Economics in that the former is specifically designed to fatten ?the PUP lord,? more than it does the PUP faithful and cronies. What both have in common is that they work at the expense of those who labor from sunrise to sunset. Who work more, get less and who work less, get more. After all, those who have the right connections, those who can wield power and influence, need only to issue the orders, and their will is done.
It is clear that the Government?s economic policy leaves no room for the will of the people. The will of the people is to safeguard their Social Security Funds and to investigate the DFC. This Musa administration has betrayed the masses, which elected them to power. But that?s neither here nor there for them, because they and their children are well fed and they sleep comfortably at night.
The effect of Growth Economics and Ashcronomics is that the power and status of the oligarchy and ?the PUP lord? have become solidified?so solidified that protests after protests don?t shake them. Meanwhile, the masses remain in servitude to them. For most Belizeans, freedom?and specifically economic freedom?have faded into oblivion.
This administration needs to be mindful of this: ?By di ballot or di bullet/by di Bible or di gun/ any which way, freedom mus com.?
The poet, Mutabaruka, who wrote these words, spoke about a special revolution to bring an end to oppression. That revolution can only come from the people. Power remains in the hands of the people. Amandla!