The Belize Telecommunications Limited now Belize Telemedia Limited has existed in Belize for decades and arguably one of the highest income/profit generators of any other business entity that currently exists in Belize. The profitability of the BTL has translated into financial and political manipulation resulting in one of the worst parasitic, unscrupulous and corruptive investment environment during the Musa years. The high level of questionable business and legal practices; the backroom wheeling and dealing by Belize’s elected officials; the historical fire sale of BTL’s assets escapes the memory of quite a few people and therefore the discussion has been reduced to sound bites, innuendos and further manipulation of the complex issues.
The previous caretakers had complete and wanton disregard for the people of Belize. A very powerful investor manipulated elected officials into creating an atmosphere of corruption unseen in Belize’s history. So bad was the level of corruption that the Caribbean Court of Justice, the highest court, used very strong language to describe the secret accommodation agreement. The CCJ described the ministers behavior as “repugnant”. The court further described our political leaders actions as “malignant tumors”, malignant tumors on our democracy potentially setting back Belize’s democracy by some three hundred years. With no shame as to how he acquired BTL, the very same investor represented by prominent politically tied attorneys of the previous adminstration, seemed hell bent at destroying Belize’s economic and investment climate after nationalization. Like a big bully who was put in his place, he had a lot of money, legal prowess and minions to accomplish just that.
The settlement agreement is a very complex issue. Mr. Barrow won a moral victory when he nationalized BTL. However his moral victory still does not satisfy local and international laws. The government would and has been bogged down in litigation for years. Dean Barrow’s choice was either -continue depleting the country’s resources in an unending fight or settle. Most international tribunals prefer settlement. From some indications BTL currently generates over 70 million dollars a year. The Belizean people love to talk and communicate, therefore BTL proves to be a profitable entity. The settlement of 162 million dollars may be a worthy investment for the people of Belize promising to remain for generations. Recall pre-nationalization – the secret accommodation agreement guaranteed a 15% return to the investor whether or not the company made money. So when the union members say that Mr. Barrow is just like Musa- I find their claim incredulously lacking accurate historical comparison. The union’s response is disingenuous, simplistic and political. The publicly worded reaction seemed like a knee jerk emotional tirade of egos and maybe political underpinnings. Election season must be on the horizon and feigned moral anger is brewing at every corner.
While I understand that the union wanted to be part of the negotiations, the reality is that Mr. Dean Barrow represents the citizens of Belize (everyone) and not the union of BTL. BTL does not belong to its employees; BTL belongs to the taxpayers of Belize. There are many people who depend on others to think for them, to explain the issues to them and to accept the information without further research. I implore my readers to research the history of BTL.