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Nov 26, 2009

Opposition senator speaks on Telemedia’s $45 million loan

Story PictureThe forty-five million dollar loan owed to British Caribbean Bank (BCB) became public only last week, but it has sparked heated debate. Prime Minister Dean Barrow is saying that Belize Telemedia Limited, which borrowed the money does not owe BCB because the loan was acquired by government when it nationalized Telemedia on August twenty-fourth. As such, says the PM in legalese, GOB is occupying the space of the creditor. But that debt was never taken to the National Assembly for approval as is required by law. Senator Godwin Hulse, who represents the private sector, is publicly opposed to loan because it follows that it will have to be foot by taxpayers. This morning opposition Senator, Lisa Shoman, appeared on Open Your Eyes to give her perspective on the loan.

Lisa Shoman, Senator
“The prime minister is now saying that it is not that they acquired the debt of B.T.L. What he is saying is that the Government of Belize is now occupying, as he puts it, the space of the creditor, meaning that B.T.L. does not, according to the prime minister, owe the bank; it owes the government. The piece of the puzzle that you are not being given is that if that is so, then it follows as night follows day that the government owes the bank. If the government does not sell this, B.T.L., if it doesn’t sell B.T.L. and its shares and its assets then we are going to have to foot that bill. Let us say for arguments sake, the prime minister is right and that in fact he has as he says, lawfully occupied the space of the creditor. The first point to be made is that, as I understand it, not only did the creditor not agree to this, but the creditor has now, the original creditor, the bank—the bank has now written to B.T.L. and said to them you have defaulted under the terms of the agreement, we want all our money. And to me it matters not here nor there whether B.T.L. is required to pay the money at this point or whether government of Belize is required to pay the money because you see Government of Belize did not lend B.T.L. any money. I will say that again; Government of Belize did not lend B.T.L. any money. So therefore, if they are saying we are now going to take over this loan, you must pay off the original person who lent the money.”

“For instance Marie sharp, if Marie sharp wanted to borrow money from for argument sake, RBTT, if I were RBTT I world really hesitate because if you are now telling me that the government can pass legislation and take over my loan, why should I lend money to any company in Belize? It undermines the entire confidence that any investor should have in this country as to not only the banking system and the securities that you give, but it also says to the taxpayers that the government can involve them in obligations without going through the procedure. And it doesn’t escape me or anyone else who can remember a little bit of history a couple years back, that this was the type of matter that the prime minister himself when he was leader of the opposition was complaining so loudly about.”

Shoman emphasized that the longer the loan goes unpaid, the more interest and fees accrue and legal costs will be another issue if the matter ends up in court. On Wednesday, the British Caribbean Bank said it will pursue payment of the loan from Telemedia.

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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