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Jun 17, 2005

G.O.B. to sell B.T.L. shares to Ashcroft, workers, public

Story PictureIt came as no surprise that today at the sitting of the House of Representatives, the Musa administration announced tax increases for locally produced beer, cigarettes, and rum, as well as rate hikes in Stamp Duties for certain land transactions. And with tensions running high over the state of the country’s finances, Belmopan had prepared for the worse, erecting crowd control measures around Independence Hill and dispatching a number of police officers to the National Assembly. But in the end, no one showed up to protest… at least not outside. While the hikes in the sin taxes had its opposition, inside the House the hot topic of the day proved to be government’s final decision on how to dispose of its thirty-seven point five percent of Belize Telecommunications Limited. It was Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Said Musa who rose to explain that despite their best efforts, his government’s best case scenario was to put control of B.T.L. back into the hands of Michael Ashcroft’s Ecom.

Prime Minister Said Musa
?At no time did we ever say to the workers that we could offer a full sovereign guarantee. In fact, quite the opposite was said. I personally made it known from that first Sunday afternoon meeting at the Central Bank that a full sovereign guarantee was not on the table simply because the existing fiscal situation did not lend itself to our offering such a guarantee. But the government did offer to guarantee up to ten million dollars worth of shares.?

?In the end, our attempt to work with the B.T.L. workers for them to acquire the thirty-seven and a half percent shareholding did not meet with success because of our inability to get any of the banks with whom we were in discussion to lend the capital to finance the B.T.L. workers? acquisition of the shares.?

?We made it known at least two months ago that in the month of June we would have to dispose with the shares owing to certain international debt obligations that would fall due and owing to the fact that the failure to settle the B.T.L. matter lends uncertainty to the investment climate in Belize. We therefore made it known up front that we could not continue to negotiate ad finitum. We must bring this matter to closure. Madam Speaker, the Government of Belize therefore propose to dispose of the shares in the following manner. Of the thirty-seven and a half of the shares, twenty percent will be transferred to a company that will hold the shares for the B.T.L. workers. If the B.T.L. workers decide that they are interested in acquiring the twenty percent shareholding, through a loan facility the shares will be put into the name of a trust entity to hold the shares on their behalf. A further five percent will be made available through over the counter at the Central Bank to the Belizean public at large. The final twelve and a half percent will be sold to Ecom. The Belize Bank, a financial institution associated with Ecom, will facilitate financing of the loan facility to the workers of B.T.L. in the event that the workers decide to take up the twenty percent that will be held in reserve for them.?

It would later be disclosed that the name of the company which will hold the shares for the B.T.L. workers is called Sunshine.

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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