In a draft settlement deed that has been posted on ?freebelize.org,? GOB feigns innocence in the deal. Firstly, it asserts that the agreements with the BCRL and BELIPO were carried out ?without proper authority.? It further states that they ?did not constitute valid and enforceable obligations of the Government of Belize.?
Interestingly, this draft deed was signed by GOB?s financial advisor, Joe Waight, the same man who weeks ago issued an order to the Central Bank to pay the Companies Registry a cheque of $2.25 million to cover stamp duties for two private entities. If the contracts were not valid and enforceable, why did GOB enforce it by asking the Central Bank to pay the privatized registry?
We wonder why the Financial Secretary, Dr. Carla Barnett, was not the one to execute the said letter and the deed. Isn?t the role being played by Mr. Waight really one that should be played by the Financial Secretary? Has her authority been given over to Mr. Waight? If so, then we also need to ask, why? Did she smell the stench of corruption?
We must also point out that the order to pay came from the ministry of which the Prime Minister is the chief steward, and for him to pretend to have indignation over the contracts with BELIPO and the BCRL is disingenuous. Our information is that the Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Finance, agreed to pay the stamp duties for Mr. Ashcroft?s ECOM and Sunshine from the public?s coffers. Didn?t he know that GOB was only going to end up with 20% of this money? We are not so gullible as to believe so.
Before privatization of the registry, this would have been a ?revenue neutral? transaction, because GOB would pay out the money but 100% of it would return to its coffers. Under privatization, GOB loses big! 80% of the pie. The evidence shows that it has lost over a million in a single transaction, so how many millions did it lose over the years?
GOB now claims, after having paid out $2.25 million to the registry, that the agreements were ?repugnant? to the Constitution and the Laws of Belize. Very strong words for an administration that knowingly executed those agreements, whether it saw the finer details of the contracts or not!
Isn?t it the responsibility of the Prime Minister to see at least the major contracts that are signed by his Cabinet members? Could these multi-million-dollar agreements have existed since 2001 and 2003 without the Prime Minister?s knowing the key details? If the Prime Minister did not know that all those millions that were supposed to go to GOB?s treasury were not going there, but instead to private hands, then there is something seriously wrong with him. What does this say about his vigilance over public funds?
This is the same Prime Minister that told Belizeans in January that taxes have to be raised by $90 million. This is the same Prime Minister that told public servants this year that they couldn?t get their promised salary increases and usual increments. This is the same Prime Minister that tells the public sector that they have to work with fewer resources, because these are times of austerity.
Austerity? How can a Government agree to give away so much money in times of austerity? Yes, we think that these deals could be fittingly described as ?REPUGNANT,? to the extent that they are an affront to the Belizean workers, taxpayers and business people who are being bled year after year by ?The Tax Man.?
If GOB is convinced that the BELIPO/BCRL contracts were invalid, then why is it not demanding a return of all the millions of tax dollars that have gone to them since 2001? Why did it merely seek a refund of the $2.25 million paid for Ashcroft?which it should never have paid in the first place?
Will we ever know how much the BCRL and BELIPO collected under their contracts with Government? In its settlement with BELIPO/BCRL, GOB is merely accepting the $2.25 million in settlement for breaking the contracts, when it argues that it is due a ?complete refund.?
Why is GOB being so soft on these people who entered into these invalid contracts? They are favored cronies, no doubt.
Furthermore, what will happen to the GOB officials who acted, supposedly, outside their authority in negotiating and signing these contracts? Will Musa break out his cat-o-nine tails? Will Godfrey Smith go? We suppose not, since the evidence indicates that Mr. Musa was not as clueless with respect to the deals as he pretends to be.
We hear that there are other deals like the BELIPO deal, skewed very much in favor of the privateers/cronies. When will those duplicitous sweetheart deals come to light? Will the parties responsible ever be called to answer?
We think there needs to be a true settlement of the issues here. A refund of $2.25 million won?t bring closure! No amount of refunds will. Someone has to answer; someone has to pay for, as GOB alleges, breaking the Constitution and Laws of Belize.
This administration has proven itself to be a huge liability to Belizeans. We have lost untold millions that could have gone to the poor, developed our villages, towns and cities, educated our youth, and truly grown the Belizean economy.
Instead, we seem to be enriching a chosen few ?bad boys? in guayaberas. Government should work for the people and not against them.
As we write this editorial, more issues surface: the threat of devaluation being prime, as reported by Moody? Investor Service. We Belizeans don?t want to accept that a major consequence of the plundering of the public?s purse is that our dollar could lose its worth on the currency market. Of course, those who have gotten the millions from our coffers have not stored them in Belize, but in foreign bank accounts in US dollars, so the threat of devaluation does not concern them.
On the national level, devaluation would make it impossible for Belize to settle its multimillion-dollar debt. It would make it impossible for Belize to survive the new wave of globalization. It would make it impossible for Belize to truly harness its development potential.
If the current trends continue, we might end up stranded up the proverbial ?sh*@ creek? without a paddle. The only thing that can save us is for us to return to that spirit of nationalism, where we consider the interest of all Belizeans foremost.
It is only the power of the people?through the hands of the Almighty?that can return Belize to stability. This administration has proven to be nothing but a liability to us. We think it is time for this liability to be settled one way or the other!