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Nov 24, 2017

Julius Espat Says P.M. Must Confront U.H.S. Debt

The House of Representatives is scheduled to meet for a final time before year’s end sometime in early December.  Until then, the Barrow administration is forced to stare down an elephant in the room.  That obvious problem which perhaps no one in government is eager to discuss is the ninety million dollar debt owed to the Belize Bank, following Wednesday’s ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice.  The controversial decision by the CCJ essentially orders the payment of the outstanding sum which has since ballooned from thirty-seven million dollars in 2013.  There has been a deafening chorus of objection from the ruling party since the final judgment was handed down earlier this week.  A number of elected officials have gone on record to say that they won’t be supporting a pending motion by Prime Minister Dean Barrow to draw down on monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in to order to pay off the eight-figure balance.  The firm position has been that Belizeans have not benefited from the services of the now defunct Universal Health Services Limited, which has come with a hefty price tag.  It’s a moral dilemma which will see members of parliament having to take a vote on the matter in the days ahead, since it is expected that a motion will be tabled at the next house meeting.  Presumably, the United Democratic Party would have already formulated a collective position on whether or not it will support the proposal of PM Barrow.  For now it seems that the matter remains up in the air.  The opposition is also weighing in on the divisive issue, with P.U.P. Deputy Party Leader Julius Espat sharing his thoughts on what government must do to honor its obligation.

 

Julius Espat

Julius Espat, Deputy Party Leader, P.U.P.

“I am of the opinion that we have to be responsible and if you owe somebody you have to pay them and you have to pay them back, because it has been proven in the past that by not paying we are now incurring serious additional costs.  Going up to, I’m looking at the numbers, close to seven hundred million dollars that we have to pay because we refuse to pay from the initial stages.  You have to understand, you make an agreement with a man, whoever that man is, good or bad, and that man formulates in his contract that you signed on, he has all the protection of the courts, as has been, it’s quite obvious to us now.  He went to London Court of International Arbitration, he won.  He went to the Supreme Court of the United States, he won.  He went to the Privy Council, he won.  Now he went to the CCJ and he has won.  Guys we have to, I’ve said it before, we have to get this boogeyman off of our shoulders, it’s too burdensome for the people of Belize.  And what games are we saying now, that we won’t pay again?  You know, in two years time, when supposedly the P.U.P. comes into government and they don’t pay this, you know how much more that will incur in interest alone?  Approximately thirty million dollars on top of the ninety.  So I personally, from what I have analyzed, and we haven’t sat as a party as yet to discuss it but I think it is irresponsible.  And another thing, I want to know what is happening, what are the ministers saying?  They are saying that they won’t pay.  The prime minister’s responsibility is that he has to take this thing to parliament no matter what because the court has made a decision and under the Finance and Audit Act in 2010 that the prime minister did himself, it says it’s a criminal act if you don’t follow the rules and regulations.  So if he doesn’t go to parliament and he doesn’t get it passed, he’s doing an unlawful act and he will be probably, the punishment is jail.  So are his minister’s saying that they want their prime minister to go to jail?”

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