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Aug 30, 2011

Chamber of Commerce says public should not pay for B.S.I. debt

Jose Alpuche

With the deadline fast approaching for B.S.I. to make good on a thirty million dollar debt to ING International Bank, there is pressure on the government and industry stakeholders to find a way out. But according to Alpuche, taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab nor should there be special conditions or government guarantees to investors.

Jose Alpuche, Vice President of Industry, BCCI

“I really believe that what is required for this industry to become viable is for the operating environment of the industry to be set right. What we have simply at the moment is an industry that is underperforming—under performing at all levels; at the processing side and certainly at the field side in terms of true put of the industry. A portion of it has to do with the archaic regulatory environment that exists and a portion of it has to with the fact that we have not been able to instill proper quality—payment by quality—and other standards that are required of any industry of this size. I am not privy to the details of the Banco Atlantida proposal or the B.S.C.F.A. proposal for that matter, but I believe that once the business environment surrounding the industry is set right, I see no reason why any investor would require a government guarantee.  What the release said is that we need something commercially viable, we need something that is equitable and something permanent and it is in that respect that the Chamber made those comments. Again, we believe that Banco Atlantida or any other investor would be investing in an industry that is an ongoing concern. Therefore there’s not a whole lot of special conditions that should be required for that investment; it’s not a startup enterprise. Also, we would not want any investor coming in, having an edge over existing players in the industry in particular the cane farmers.  B.S.I. is a private company, all the cane farming to a large extent is private company, government has a small share in the processing side; I see no reason why any debt should be nationalized. To the contrary, I think the Chamber made it quite clear in its release that it believes government should not invest any more public funds, any more public resources into the industry. There’s a tremendous amount of money out there as it relates to the EU accompanying measure for sugar and also through Fair Trade that can be utilized for the improvements for the industry. I see no reason why the taxpayers should fund anymore.”

Officials of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association are currently away seeking capital for their plan to acquire majority shares in BSI.

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