S.S.B. Must Justify Arguments on Share Purchase
The Social Security Board has given preliminary approval, through its Investment Committee, for a purchase of thirty-five million dollars in shares for Belize Telemedia Limited and twenty million dollars in Belize Electricity Limited, which pending final approval raises their stake in each company to thirty-three and thirty-four percent respectively. As reported by C.E.O. of the Board Doctor Colin Young on Tuesday, S.S.B. considers the shareholdings “very safe investments” due to high rates of return. But has the Board considered, particularly in the case of B.T.L., the high price they may have to pay in relation to the nationalizations conducted by Government in 2009 and 2011? That is the question raised by a former board member and Senator for the Business Community, Mark Lizarraga, in speaking to News Five today.
Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community
“There are people who have seen these proposals, I’m sure – those are the directors of S.S.B. When I was on the S.S.B. Board, one of the things that certainly concerned me was the return on investment and what the final cost of the B.T.L. acquisition would be. Subsequently I’ve left the S.S.B.’s Board; but when I last looked at the numbers that were presented by the analysts from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it certainly showed a negative return on investment, contemplating the investment of five hundred and fifty to six hundred million dollars – it was somewhere in there. I would certainly want to see a return on investment exercise – because Albert Einstein said that perhaps the greatest force in the universe is in fact compound interest and we have seen how much interest has borne on the cost of B.T.L. – this whole B.T.L. saga. Now I don’t know where Government is finding the money to fund this payment for the B.T.L. investment; I don’t know how much of that B.T.L. is going to be paying back themselves or how much will be borne by the taxpayers; but certainly, there are other people that could answer you these questions perhaps in more detail; and i expect that the S.S.B. should be able to provide you with a copy of their return on investment projections, clearly showing what the cost of B.T.L. is to the company, and how they intend to pay that back. When I last looked at the numbers from B.T.L., I think it was being reported that the Government was estimating that they would be making about ten million dollars a year; and at that time I certainly questioned how ten million dollars a year could be servicing a loan of that magnitude.”
The second payment to the former owners of B.T.L. is due later this year. Lizarraga noted that in his time with S.S.B., B.E.L.’s shares performed better and he is not aware of any change, but that likewise B.E.L. should share its figures.