BELIZE CITY, Tues. May 11, 2021– On Monday, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance gave the media an update on the ongoing negotiations between the holders of the country’s Superbond and Belize’s debt management team.
The country is currently aiming to finalize another restructuring of the debt, which has already been included as a cost reduction in the budget for this fiscal year, making a restructuring almost absolutely necessary.
The bondholders are strongly urging the Government to sign on to an IMF support program, while the Briceño administration is sticking to its intention to carry out a ‘homegrown” recovery plan.
Both parties seem to be fixed in their position as the May 20th payment deadline nears. If an agreement is not reached before that date, there will be, at least in the short term, a “soft default” on the Superbond payment — something that has happened before.
One bondholder, Dr. Carl Ross of GMO, referred to the country as a serial defaulter, a classification which Minister Coye says is not a good look for the country. Coye further stated that, while the Superbond is only one portion of the country’s debt profile, it has to now be dealt with, since the previous administration just “kicked the can down the road.”
“Looking at the debt profile of Belize, it’s certainly not commendable to see that we had a billion dollars in Super Bond debts back in 2008 and we have over a billion dollars in Super Bond debt in 2021. All that sounds to me is that we’ve been paying interest for the last twelve or thirteen years, interest that we don’t get back. That’s gone. So, and we still owe, in fact, one point one billion dollars, because we capitalized the interest last year. We owe one point one billion dollars now. That doesn’t sound like a good debt management policy that’s been effected over the past decade, whatsoever. Is it that we want to continue that policy and continue owing a billion dollars and just keep paying interest? I would think not,” Coye said, although he did not indicate how Belize would find the funding to go beyond meeting minimal interest payments, in light of its huge debt load and fiscal woes.
“The Superbond is one component of our overall debt profile, but we need to deal with it. We cannot keep kicking the can down the road. I keep repeating it, but it’s important to repeat it. It’s important to underscore. It’s important to be responsible. I certainly don’t want our country to be cited as a serial defaulter, but it is what it is. The bondholders are investors in this country, and we do look at them as investors in this country, but we still have to give priority or rank in order of priority, and when we rank in order of priority, we come first. Belize comes first, not the investors,” Minister Coye said.