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May 6, 2021

Will the Super Bond be Restructured for a Fifth Time?

John Briceño

There are questions tonight about Belize’s homegrown economic recovery plan after Reuters news agency is reporting that creditors have been urging Belize to agree to an I.M.F. program, and Belize is accusing its bond holders of cancelling a zoom call. When asked for comment today, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Chris Coye told news five he was out of the country, but believed the Prime Minister would be addressing the matter soon. The Briceño administration which took office in November 2020, is attempting to restructure its external debt obligation.  It is the fifth time in the past fifteen years that the country has reached out to its creditors in a bid to streamline the five hundred and fifty million U.S. dollar Super Bond.  The Super Bond which emerged in its first iteration in 2006-2007 presently contributes to one hundred and thirty-three percent of Belize’s GDP ratio.  In a recent country review, the International Monetary Fund described it unsustainable.  Belize’s economy has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and Prime Minister John Briceño has opted for a homegrown recovery plan, eschewing an I.M.F. prescription.  U.S.-based funds G.M.O. and Greylock, as well as London-based Aberdeen Standard Investments, all Super Bond holders, have collectively signaled, after forming a creditor committee, that they may not restructure with help from the U.N. financial agency.  When asked on March fifteenth about the bond payment that is due this month, here’s what the prime minister had to say.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Host, Open Your Eyes

“There’s a payment due in a few months, in May. And clearly from all you’ve outlined, we most likely will not be able to make that payment. Is that what you’re saying?”

 

Prime Minister John Briceño [File: March 5th, 2021]

“Yes.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“So what’s the status of the renegotiation?”

 

Prime Minister John Briceño

“I don’t think we’ve started the actual negotiations formally, but we have been sending out signals and so to the bondholders. There is absolutely no way that we can continue carrying that burden of over five hundred million U.S. dollars and the only way we can get back to sustainability is asking for bondholders to take a haircut and we are trying to get as a big of a haircut as we possibly can. The debt recovery team is just a team of different technicians and myself as well as with Ministers Courtenay and Coye. And so we are the ones that are working on putting all of these plans together.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“Are you utilizing any of the past members of the recovery team; the past P.U.P. representative, the ambassador for Economic Affairs, Mark Espat? Is he involved?’

 

Prime Minister John Briceño

“Mark Espat is involved, but he is involved through the CITI Group. The CITI Group is the group that leads the negotiations. And so they are the ones that will have started that negotiations. We are not paying a cent to anybody as we speak and it will be based on performance and the amount of the haircut that we can get.”


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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