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Sep 19, 2005

P.M. defends Sunshine loan as good for workers…

Story Picturefollowing his address, Prime Minister Musa pressed the flesh with a long line of well-wishers ranging from diplomats to campaign workers… after which he found time to engage in some give and take with the press. The P.M. was first asked whether he really thought that the bulk of his problems were behind him.

Prime Minister Said Musa
“No, I believe we’ll always have challenges ahead of us, but I do believe that we’re getting over the worse and that Belize is rebounding, as I said. I’m very confident, I feel very optimistic about the way forward.”

Stewart Krohn, News Director, News 5
“You said no new taxes this fiscal year, but come April first, the financial picture would dictate that there’s going to be some very heavy new taxes and/or some very heavy freeze on capital spending. Do you think you can weather that storm?”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“Yes, I don’t envisage that there will be need for any significant new taxes. What I see happening in the next fiscal year is that we will rationalise the tax structure by implementing this new measure that they’re coming up with, which may not necessarily be an increase in taxes, but it will be more broad-base if you like.”

Jules Vasquez, News Director, Channel 7
“In the draft of the I.M.F. report, it refers to it as a broad-based VAT tax that the I.M.F. is helping with the implementation of.”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“As a matter of fact it’s not the I.M.F. that is helping us with that, we’re working with the I.D.B. and other agencies and our own technicians are coming up through the Tax Reform Committee.”

Jules Vasquez
“But you will implement a VAT?”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“We will implement a modified consumption tax that takes into account the add valorum feature of VAT, yes.”

Jules Vasquez
“Mr. Prime Minister can you say why you went to the Social Security Board on Friday and made a personal intervention for and on behalf of Sunshine Holdings Limited to approve the ten million dollar Social Security loan?”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“Because I felt it was important to have consensus on the board. As you know, from the previous day we had gotten a majority as I understand it, but?”

Jules Vasquez, News Director, Channel 7
“But in another configuration…

Prime Minister Said Musa
“But I felt that it was important to get the social partners involved as well and I explained to them that this money was to be used to purchase the shares in B.T.L. to create a trust fund that would be made available to the workers of B.T.L. I disabuse them of the idea which was being perpetuated, I suspect, by the media or sections of the media and certain persons in the union movement that this Sunshine Limited had anything to do with Michael Ashcroft or Belize Bank or any such thing. In fact, Sunshine is simply a vehicle that has been created to make the shares available in trust for the workers.”

Jules Vasquez
“But Sunshine headquarters is not a Michael Ashcroft’s 92 North Front Street headquarters? Are the signatories?”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“It could have been anywhere. A shell company is first of all formed; it could have been at any law firm and any two subscribers. What is important to analyse is what will happen to the company once the trust comes into effect.”

Jules Vasquez
“But it’s an investment company. In its memorandum the first item it says is to invest in B.T.L. shares.”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“Yes, and it’s getting this investment through a loan from the Belize Bank, fifty percent; a loan from the government, twenty-five percent; and a loan from Social Security.”

Jules Vasquez
“But the union will say it doesn?t want anything to do with Sunshine; the Communication Workers Union, that’s the bottom line.”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“Well I am yet to hear that.”

Stewart Krohn
“Prime Minister what is the status of that deal with Sunshine now?”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“The status now is that I believe within the next two days we will finalise the arrangement and then sit down with the Belize Communication Workers Union and say this is the package, are you still interested, yes or no.”

Jules Vasquez
“And if they are not interested?”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“And then we will have to look at our alternative to see whether we shouldn’t hold the shares in trust for all Belizean or for all the workers of Belize for that matter.”

Stewart Krohn
“Prime Minister we know that the terms of the Social Security Board loan are very liberal, by Belize standards any way. Do you know what are the terms that the Belize Bank is offering to Sunshine to lend the fifty percent, what those terms are?”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“From what I have been told, it will be slightly higher but not much higher. In other words we are looking not at seventeen percent as I have seen somewhere in the press, but suspect I somewhere no more than then to twelve percent.”

Jules Vasquez
“Sir, the Sunshine loan is an unsecured loan. The Social Security Board’s attorney cautioned against it, because it is unsecured. Is this just as the Opposition has intimated, is this just because government is desperate for money to meet its significant external obligations and is seeking to use Social Security money so that it can hurriedly get the money to its pay external commitments?”

Prime Minister Said Musa
“On the contrary, one of the objectives of Social Security is to assist those who contribute to that fund and the workers are some of the major contributors of Social Security. Now in this case, the people who will benefit most will be the workers of B.C.W.U. They won’t have to pay any exorbitant interest rate, they will be able to pay at eight and a half percent, they will be given a grace period, and all this is done under a worse case scenario to ensure that B.T.L. will be able, through its dividends, to service that loan. Okay, thank you all very much.”

The full State of the Nation Address will be broadcast following this newscast.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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