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Sep 14, 2021

Chamber of Commerce, Prime Minister and Smart on Speednet Deal

Earlier this month, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in light of recent news that a number of government offices have switched from B.T.L. to Smart, wrote to Prime Minister John Briceño on the controversial issue.  B.C.C.I. also raised the issue of the awarding of a Microsoft contract to Smart, an agreement that was initially struck between the Government of Belize and Belize Telemedia Limited.  The letter, dated September second, included the fact that over ninety percent of B.T.L. is owned by the government through shares that are also held by the Social Security Board and the Central Bank.  Chamber President Marissa Longsworth urged G.O.B. to make sure that the highest degree of transparency and sound procurement practices that are part of the Finance and Audit Reform Act are adhered to.  In responding to the letter, PM Briceño categorically rejected the Chamber’s assertion that the government is diverting business away from B.T.L. in favor of Smart.  The prime minister reiterated that the Central Information Technology Office, CITO, went to great lengths to ensure that the tender process was fair and transparent.  PM Briceño also said that overlooking other service providers under the Belize Telecommunications Act, who are able to provide cheaper services than B.T.L., is not creating a fair playing field.  He says that what the chamber has proposed is tantamount to creating a monopoly for B.T.L.   On Monday, Speednet, the parent company of Smart, also responded to the Chamber’s letter, expressing its disappointment with the position that the organization has taken.  In its response, Speednet says, “as a member in good standing we have done our best to make a positive contribution to the B.C.C.I., the Belizean economy and the community at large.  However, the letter sent to the government evidences that our contribution is no longer valued by the B.C.C.I.   B.C.C.I. has chosen to publicly lobby for the interests of another member over our interests and to entirely ignore the potential harm to us as your member.” We note that an application for leave to grant a judicial review has been filed on behalf of Senator Michael Peyrefitte.

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