Editorial — 18 September 2019
LPG deal —another poor GoB decision

Dr. Gilbert Canton probably deserves to be rewarded for his bright idea to have Belizean business folk and the government wrest control of the LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) market from foreign hands, especially if it leads to Belizeans paying less for the commodity. But, there are no such guarantees.

Dr. Canton, the manager of the new National Gas Company Limited (NGCL), has said (to Channel Five) that while he was the CEO at BNE (Belize Natural Energy), they made attempts to get into the LPG business, but the industry was monopolized by foreign interests, and this allowed those interests such control that they could manipulate wholesale prices. It is not impossible that he didn’t press the case while at BNE because he saw the possibilities for himself a little down the road.

Dr. Canton said he looked very closely at the LPG market in Belize, and we suspect that when he saw the margin between the wholesale price and what the product is sold for to Belizean consumers, he salivated. Thus was born the bright idea of the Belizean-majority-owned NGCL that received the blessing of the Cabinet of Belize, and the House of Representatives at its last sitting.

Essentially, the NGCL will be investing in a holding tank(s) for 1.3 million gallons of LPG. We have heard of some massive investments that have already been made by this company, and that as much as $60 million will be invested. Dr. Canton has said that the government, which will have a 25% share in the company, didn’t offer to invest. He said the company needed capital, so he and his group reached out and included a foreign investor.

There are some definite positives to the NGCL, but it cannot easily get past its biggest negative, which is that it is a monopoly. If there was a rival company, there might be an advantage for the people, translated to better prices, if the companies didn’t collude.

A 2013 independent review, “Proposed LPG Terminal and Storage Tank in Searsport”, which was researched by Abbie McMillen and published on the internet, reported on the cost of LPG storage tanks using the “Marshall Valuation Services Cost Manual.” The report said: “For each 113,095 cubic feet of tank capacity, the cost should be $923,000 per Marshall. 1 gallon of tank capacity equals 0.1337 cubic feet. Their 24 M gallon tank = 3,208,800 c.f. and would be valued at $26,187,916.”

We definitely don’t claim any expertise on the storage and distribution of LPG, but based on the above calculations we put the most costly investment of the NGCL — storage tank(s) for 1.3 million gallons LPG (the quantity Canton mentioned to Channel Five) —at around BZ$3 million.

Dr. Canton’s accomplish-ments as listed on his Linkedin page, include the construction of crude storage tanks, and crude piping systems. (The cost of the tank(s) could go up or down depending on the quality of the material used.) The assets of the company are to be handed over to the government of Belize after fifteen years. If the material used for the tanks and pipes is inferior, after 15 years we might have scrap metal at Big Creek.

The government has to put the numbers on the table for us. Dr. Canton deserves something for his bright idea, but the people of Belize really have had enough of being fleeced. That has happened too many times under this government. Flat out, nobody trusts this government any more, and that’s because we always come out on the short end of business transactions.

Boy murdered; young woman missing, found dead

Last week our nation was rocked again when a boy, just 14-years-old, was murdered, and a young woman, just 19-years-old, went missing after going to a nightclub with two female friends. Our old folk experienced these kinds of shocks maybe once, or twice each year, but they are weekly fare for us in 2019, and the only way things could get worse would be if they were to become a daily occurrence. We seem to be working on that.

We have heard allegations that the youth who was murdered, Christopher Chi, was running a business. His trade was reportedly illegal – the selling of marijuana. The police have said that this is what led to his murder. Selling illegal goods is dangerous business. The youth would also have been exposed to danger if he were involved with contraband, or if he were cutting in on the sales of a legal product that is controlled by a cartel.

Life is fraught with danger, especially if you are involved in an illegal activity or if you encroach on the territory of a cartel. Adults who are daring or are ill-equipped to make a living on the straight and narrow path, engage in these desperate endeavors. This youth, if the police have their facts correct, was operating in dangerous adult territory.

We don’t yet know why the youth was engaged in selling an illegal product, but we know there are many youth in our country that are engaged in illegal activities and that their involvement in these activities is a matter of survival. There is a terrible growing divide between the haves and the have-nots in our country.

Even though we know that poverty drives many of our people to illegal activities, when a youth gets caught up in it we have to ask where the support systems are that should keep youth on the right path.

The youth who was murdered, and the many youth who are involved in illegal businesses, do not carry on their activities without the adults in their families and neighborhoods knowing what they are doing. When the family fails, the neighborhood should step up and save the child, children. The state knows, should know, what our young people are doing, and they should step to the plate when the other support systems around our youth fail.

In the old Belize, when a young woman didn’t go home after a party the odds were heavy that she had eloped. In the case of the missing Adamir Choc, who had not gone home after a night out with her friends, we clung to such hope, even though we have been experiencing many tragic endings when our young people don’t go home after a night out. We learned of the tragic ending on Saturday.

Our nation should not carry on as usual after the murder of a boy, no matter what he was involved in, and the murder of a young woman who was out a little late after attending a party. If we were living pre-1981, there would be justice for crimes like these. After we became independent our political leaders corrupted every system in our country, and the consequence is poverty and rampant crime.

We are a nation in a desperate state. In our desperate state adults and youth are involved in dangerous activities for survival. Our political leaders, who seem incapable of bettering the economic condition of our people, are also not capable of protecting us.

The Commissioner of Police and his staff just about know who is guilty of every crime in our little country. The odds are that the police know who killed young Christopher, and who killed young Adamir. The police have knowledge, yet our justice system sets free more than 90% of the suspects in horrific crimes in our country. They lose the cases because they are ill-equipped. The present government promised to turn things around by investing in a state-of-the-art forensic lab. They have not.

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Deshawn Swasey

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