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Dec 1, 2017

Chamber of Commerce says debt must be paid, come what may

The matter of the Universal Health Services debt, and what the Government intends doing about it, continue to dominate the news. Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s scathing response to the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week on their position regarding settlement of the debt to the Belize Bank Limited is in stark contrast to his conciliatory words to them earlier this year as he spoke of various reforms. The Prime Minister accused the organization of duplicity, hypocrisy and dishonesty in excoriating the Government for resisting a foreign award which he said they got because the deal had been struck down by the local courts. He went to ask when the debt should have been paid – (quote) “Were we to pay after our Supreme Court said the whole deal stank? Or should it have been after our Court of Appeal said the same?” (unquote.) While a formal response is being worked on, Chamber President Nikita Usher told News Five via telephone that at this point, it does not matter – because the Caribbean Court of Justice has ordered it as Belize’s final appellate court, the debt has come due.

 

On the Phone: Nikita Usher, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry

On the Phone: Nikita Usher

“The Chamber’s position is that we’ve always requested that the rule of law be maintained. And if in one breath you are saying that the C.C.J. is your final court, in which you honored the B.T.L. payment in U.S. [dollars] versus Belize [dollars], but in this note you are saying you are not going to honor it if you get a no vote, one has to ask why then is the C.C.J. your final court? But going aside from that, what we want as the Chamber for the general public to understand: that even if there is a no vote at the parliament, ninety million will not be erased as a liability for Belize; ninety million remains a bill owing; ninety million continues to grow by the day with interest. So when the Prime Minister is saying if the parliament votes no it will not be paid, all we are really and truly doing is to kick the bucket down the road. All you’re really truly saying is under his tenure, the ninety million will not be paid if he gets a no vote. That doesn’t stop, however, another government from coming forward and making it paid – get a parliament to rule to say yes and then it has to be paid. But who will pay? At the end of the day it will not be the parliamentarians that will pay. It will be a payment made by the Government of Belize, and who has to make sure that you bridge that gap is the business community and the general public who pays the taxes. So that is the bottom-line from the Chamber’s standpoint; it is a bill, a liability to the country that will not go away.”

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