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Mar 14, 2018

Is New Investment in Phone Company a Good Idea?

A loan to B.T.L. was also tabled before the Senate today.  The loan from Taiwan is for of thirty-five million Belize dollars, for a commitment period of twelve years at a fixed rate of interest of five point five percent. The loan will be used to finance the installation of a state-of-the-art fiber optic network.  That motion faced rejection from Business Senator Mark Lizarraga and Opposition Senator Valerie Woods. The senators believe that B.T.L. has been underperforming over the years and there is no return for the investment and this is why Taiwan is seeking a guarantee from the government.

 

Mark Lizarraga

Mark Lizarraga, Business Senator

“After we’ve heard so much of the grandiose performance of these companies that we’ve nationalized, we see in the budget book that has just been presented to us…performance. Dividends from B.T.L. and B.E.L. slightly doing better than they did in last fiscal year; returns of eleven point five million dollars from B.T.L. and B.E.L. combined. And based on the numbers that we have been seeing in the budget presentation at least for B.T.L.—and I am not going to debate the numbers although the business community is well on record as having debated the numbers—but let us take an instance that I believe the numbers show that we’ve invested close to four hundred million dollars in B.T.L. and I am not going to get into the argument again because as I said those numbers do not reflect opportunity cost and interest. And we have invested some seventy-odd million dollars, I believe, in B.E.L.  So all told, we’ve invested half a billion dollars according to the government numbers before us today in these two utilities. And dividends from these investments are about eleven million dollars, less than two percent. Certainly, we could have realized that from just business tax at one point seven-five percent. So one again questions whether these in fact were stellar investments that were going to add a lot to the national purse when you see both of them combined only putting in eleven million dollars.”

 

Valerie Woods

Valerie Woods, P.U.P. Senator

“Once again there is a loan for a hefty sum of money for what sometimes is a public company and sometimes is a private company; that the Belizean taxpayers are asked to pay but they don’t know what they are paying for. We should all have a problem with that. So I don’t see how we can even consider this. We should ask for that. We should also ask for that because what this loan motion is doing is asking for government to guarantee.”

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