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Jun 21, 2011

B.E.L. is officially state owned; government’s first day as owner

Prime Minister Dean Barrow headed to Guatemala City this morning. It was left for the acting Prime Minister, Gaspar Vega to head the team to oversee the transition assuming control of the Belize Electricity Limited. Vega, Board Chairman, Rodwell Williams and the new C.E.O., Jeffery Locke, who has worked in the citrus industry and is a member of the Banks and Financial Institutions Appeals Board, pulled up to B.E.L.’s office this morning. The Board includes new faces but the first order of business was to deal with personnel and administrative matters. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The nationalization of B.E.L. took place on Monday in the capital. After eleven thirty this morning, the Deputy Prime Minister drove onto the compound to initiate the takeover of B.E.L.

Jose Sanchez

“Can you tell us exactly what the government will be doing this morning?”

Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister

“It will be the official takeover and we gonna have our first board meeting.”

Jose Sanchez

“Do you have any idea who all will be placed on the board?”

Gaspar Vega

“Not yet.”

Vega is the acting Prime Minister since Dean Barrow announced on Monday that while in Guatemala for a security meeting, he would be speaking to Mexico’s President about B.E.L.’s relationship with CFE.

Dean Barrow

“There is a regional security summit and President Calderon of Mexico is going to be there. I have already confirmed a bilateral meeting between the two of us and of course the reason for my requesting that bilateral meeting is to talk about CFE and what Mexico and the president can do now to assist us given the public takeover of B.E.L.”

Dean Barrow

Jose Sanchez

“What happened when you went in just a short while ago?”

Gaspar Vega

“Basically I just went there to assure them the government is in full support of such a big challenge that they are undertaking.”

Jose Sanchez

“I know one of the main things you’re looking into would be the books over the past few days? Is that something that anyone would be looking at right now?”

Gaspar Vega

Gaspar Vega

“I’m certain that that is priority; the signatories for the bank—that is something that they will be looking in to for sure. I am certain that the people that have been appointed to the board have the capacity to jump in there like is aid earlier. I don’t think it is going to be easy, I think they are quite aware of that and they can take that challenge, I’m certain.”

Jose Sanchez

“Who would be the new board members?”

Gaspar Vega

“I’m not certain of all the board members. I know the C.E.O. will be Mr. Jeffrey Locke, the chairman, Mr. Rodwell Williams. There’s other board members that I know but I wouldn’t want to make mention of some and not all of them.”

Adele Ramos, Amandala

“Could you outline what changes take effect as of today since the government is now in control of B.E.L.?”

Gaspar Vega

“Basically the board. Rodwell Williams was the chairman before and he will remain as the chairman. I think there were some board members that were already there that will be kept on the board. So it’s only going to be an addition. I think, let me see, Mr. Luis Liu, the C.F.O., Mr. Anwar Flores, a board member, Dr. Carla Barnett.”

During the House presentation of outstanding debts to CFE, international banks and BECOL, concern was raised about the Belize Sugar Industries BELCOGEN plant which is also owed millions by B.E.L.

Dean Barrow

“BELCOGEN’s sole reason for being is to convert bagasse into energy for sale exclusively to B.E.L. Without B.E.L. as a buyer in good standing, BELCOGEN would ultimately also collapse. And because of the cross-default clauses, if the BELCOGEN loans are called the BSI loans are also called. It was therefore critical, in my view, that BELCOGEN should be able to assure its creditors that it will be able to collect for its electricity sales to B.E.L. Otherwise, exit now the entire sugar industry and forget everything Government had already done last year by way of rescue. The six thousand cane farmers and their families would never forgive us; the nation would never forgive us.”

Gaspar Vega

“Definitely BELCOGEN has to be on the top list because as you know BELCOGEN is tied up to BSI which is an industry that is very sensitive at the moment. We had, late last year, to come up with ten million dollars to assist that industry and we wouldn’t want them to fall into any added problems because of nonpayment from B.E.L. for sure.”

Job security is still on the minds of the current employees. However, the only sign of a government takeover was the removal of the Fortis and B.E.L. flags, only the Belize flag remained on one flag pole. All indications are that B.E.L. will remain a local business entity.
Gaspar Vega

“I don’t think that they need to worry about that. The government is quite certain that the people that are working for this country have the best interest of the company; they have been here for some time. We definitely don’t expect to have any changes unless they themselves want that.”

Dean Barrow

“We would certainly want to talk to S.S.B. about S.S.B.’s making a further investment in B.E.L. We would have no difficulty at all with selling shares other than to S.S.B. to the Belizean private sector. Clearly you’re not going to succeed in doing that right at the start because everybody knows the state the company is in, but for down the road; absolutely. What we don’t want is for it to go back into the hands of foreigners. We’ve see where that road has led us. We do not need to retrace our steps in that regard at all.”

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Late this evening B.E.L. issued its first release since the takeover and gave a full rundown of board members, which also includes Dennis Jones, John Mencias, Anthony Michael and Dylan Reneau. As to the former C.E.O., Lynn Young, when we spoke to him today he confirmed that he has transferred to BECOL, which is one of the suppliers of electricity to B.E.L.

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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27 Responses for “B.E.L. is officially state owned; government’s first day as owner”

  1. Bzn2DBone says:

    It is my honest opinion that we Belizeans should own the major utility companies. Although the takeover seems to be too high pitched, we must remember that Fortis had taken a Take it or leave it approach which means that they were not open to negotiations. I applaud the government for promising the employees of BEL that they will retain their jobs. I also hope that the employees take pride in the company, work diligently to ensure that it runs profitable, and that they be given a good opportunity of owning part of the company.

  2. John Boy,Carson,Ca says:

    I predict failure.

  3. Christina says:

    It is somewhat an unerving approach the government took in taking over BEL. The Prime Minister is like a chicken without head at the moment. I just hope Barrow truly keep his word and retain all of BEL’s worker. It is is not so, soon you will see jobs given to all individuals who are not even trained or have the capacity to do the work. Please don’t let us go that directon, because we will be bound to failure.

  4. The Educated One says:

    @ John Boy…defend your prediction.

  5. bzeanpride says:

    Its to my critical thinking that this government will do a disaster on this issue. Hopeing i be wrong but i don’t think this government will be capable to handle this situation

  6. subKonshus says:

    Be not deceived Belizeans…By saying “Belizeans own” is just another way of saying “The UDP own” or the “PUP own” or whatever ruling party is in power. Politicians continue to use the name the Belizean public as a means to enrich their families and cronies. That’s the long and short of any nationalization. Don’t expect your lives to be any better because the “Belizean People” own BEL. The most efficient services ever rendered to the Belizean public have always been from a privately owned company….How many of you can honestly say that you are pleased with the customer service and turn-around-time at the Lands Department, or the Income Tax Department, or the Immigration Department. Do you think that BEL or BTL would have been so technologically advanced if they were being run by the government for the past 10 years? Nationalization of any multi-million dollar company is just to give corrupt politicians license to dip their hands in the cash pan! Its obivious that when companies like these are privatized, everyone benefits. The public gets better services and the government can tax the hell out of them. Its a fact that GOB is the biggest client of both BEL and BTL. In the same token, these companies pay huge amounts in taxes to the government because of their vibrant revenue stream. Now when the government is in control, the check and balance between the taxes due to GOB and bills due to the companies becomes complicated because GOB does not tax itself nor does it pays itself. Do you think GOB will cut off the lights on itself if it owes itself 2 million dollars in bills. The PM said that BEL is broke…that should be considered nothing more than prophecy, now it will be broke, because GOB got its filthy claws on it. Ask the PM to give us an update on the revenue standings of BTL from since they took it over up until now. Bearing in mind that BTL was a “profitable company” at the time of the terrorist take over!!!!

  7. Pelican says:

    The poll question about reducing rates is grossly premature!! The take over came amidst problems of not being able to settle bills. How can they reduce rates. Let us not get carried away. Let’s be sensible and wait for things to be sorted out.

  8. CEO says:

    After all the sweetheard deals these guys could not show a profit or did they sell it back to the gov for more than they got it for from the gov. Big money ticoons making money poor people suffer more.

    Governments are usually not good at anything especially a utility company and in the case of Belize it is not good at running the country. Every time a utility comapny changes hands it is bad news for the consumer. In private hands it muct show a profit in the hands of the government it does not.

  9. CEO says:

    Soem of Barrow’s friends will buy it soon!

  10. Integrity says:

    I agree with you Subkonshus. Everything said are facts. This is just another excuse for the UDP families and friends to enjoy unearned privileges. Belize is getting worse daily!!!

  11. Belizean to the Bone! says:

    Well done GOB, Excellent Job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Finally, we won’t have these foreign monsters getting richer off our heads, raping our little third world country….all what these selfish monsters think is to maximize profits at all cost and when they see things getting tight they would left Belizeans hanging in darkness so as to prevent a loss…if corrupted politicians had not sold it in the first place we wouldn’t have been in this predicament! The public does not have any control or oversight of these private companies and so there is no accountability and they can just rape Belizeans as they like!

  12. Maverick says:

    Philosophically, Monopoly public utilities should not be publicly owned, and if they are, they have be well regulated. The spate of privitization in the past were done for the wrong reasons. In some cases, the GOB was desperate for money and in others wanted to play with the balance sheet to take off liabilities so they can borrow more, and in other cases simply to reward a crony (Port and Airport). There was no strategy and no plan for proper regulation, or sustainability. I predict that the next privatized failure will be the Port of Belize. The owner is milking the utility, and not putting a cent into improvement, the pier is in horrible disrepair and the equipment is always broken down. Can you imagine the disaster if the pier fell into the sea?

  13. Belize Cow says:

    @Bzn2DBone , how can BEL workers own part of the company, if the company is owned by the government? Wouldn’t that make it private again?

  14. John Boy,Carson,Ca says:

    What experience GOB have running anything.They will run it to the ground.I am making my prediction based on history.Show me one thing GOB run with success.Nothing.they are having problem taking care of what they have on their plate now.I remember when Idi Amin in Uganda kicked out the Indians who was running that country,and gave their business to his cronies.What happen? they run that country to the ground.If I was to make a bet.I would bet against this goverment.Things will get worse.

  15. Belizean to the Bone! says:

    @Belize Cow. I did not say anything about BEL workers owing the company. It was owed by Billionaire Canadian company Fortis and is now nationalized, hence owned by GOB once again!

  16. Belizean to the Bone! says:

    Private companies do not have any goal other than to maximize profits. A private company will serve the needs of those who are most willing (and able) to pay, as opposed to the needs of the majority, and are thus anti-democratic. BEL is our only electricity provider and thus creates a national monopoly leading to no competition to improve services or reduce prices to consumers, hence Fortis was just getting richer off our heads and we could not do better because we had no other choice – poor services that were very costly to consumers. Now that it is nationalized GOB do have an incentive to maximize efficiency due to the pressure of future elections.

  17. Integrity says:

    Belizean to the Bone, If you think that the service we were getting was poor, wait until the new BEL is in full force. The same thing that was happening when BEL was privatize will continue to happen only now the monies will be going into GOB, his family and his cronies pocket. This government is anything but democratic.

  18. Roy Yates says:

    Its has been said, that its not always what one does, but how he/she does it. If the picture that the Priminister paints of this situation is the way things are, then I give him a B+, but to take on two Intrnational well position companies at the same time in the manner in which he does it can have a very negative impact on the country. In this rough and tumble game of global business, these two oponents know many ways to skin ths cat. Mr . Borrow is a lawyer, not a business man.Never get a Laywer to negotiate the business part of a transaction, only the legal aspect of what it is you are about to do. I speak from experience.

    Everything in Belize is in a shambles that spills over into other things in the natural cause and effect of life. Lawyers become politicians, become business man, is not always a good mix. To say that the country is between a rock and a hard place, is gross under statement, and has to do with lact of good leadership. Instead of fixing the problem,the leaders are compounding the problems,such as what is going on with the public transportation and sports. I remember the days when the telephone service in Belize was a big ZILCH.until someone with good business know how took it over and brought it up to international standard. i was told that it was the best telephone system in all of Central America, so why did the government took it over?

    In response to Konshus: the government does not pay taxe to itself because they are in control of all the revenues on a daily basis and they can use it to guarantees loans that will help them to finance political projects and make it difficult for the oposition to compete, which is a smart move by Borrow & Co. If I may comment on the immegration of Belize, I know many folks from other Central America countries who told me that they can get a Passport in one day if they are in their respective country, and one week if they are out of their country, its two months to get Passport from Belize if out of the country and maybe one week if the applicant is in the country.
    The ordinary citizens who had nothing to do with screwing up the Passport situation is been punish due to the crime of the Politicians.

  19. Eye in the Sky says:

    The TINTING on Gaspar Prado looks great. Bet the sun no burn his skin.

  20. verleene says:

    So where will the Money come from to pay for this?. Our tax is going up or Light bill will.

  21. Belizean Diaspora says:

    All I have to say to these BEL workers, hope you have a nest egg somewhere, these vindictive parasites will drain the company by firing hardworking people, only for being PUP, or affiliated with them in any way, they will clean house similar to how Telemedia employees were fired left, right and center, for similar grounds. This inspires fear for job security, and will further increase the brain drain Belize is experiencing at the moment. At this point, it is far better to be treated as a foreigner in another country, rather than an enemy in your own home.

  22. Hugo Rivas says:

    Belizeans dont detest nationalization…in fact, we think that our basic public utilities should be state owned!!!however, the manner this government nationalizes private companies is flawed. negotiate nationalization, but dont hastily take over. Another important point…this government nationalizes public utilities for the enrichment of themselves- friends, family, close associates will get a sweet deal out of all this. SEE WHAT HAPPENED TO BTL UNDER THIS GOVERNMENT???

    If the government would have truly nationalize BEL for the Belizean people, THEY COULD HAVE PLACED:

    i am all for nationalization, but not under the UDP!!!

  23. Fairman says:

    For those of you who don’t have your facts together, it was not Dean Barrow who said that BEL is broke, it was Lynn Young of BEL. It was Lynn Young who said that BEL cannot pay its bills despite the fact that the people in Belize are paying their electricity bills every month. I know that the people are paying their bills because they still have electricity in their homes. BEL does not waste time to disconnect your wires if you fail to pay your bills within a couple of days. It was Lynn Young that was asking for an increase in electricity rates in an effort to try to satisfy his insatiable bosses/investors.
    I am not surprised that some of the comments on the web are in favor of the increase in rates. Those comments could be from the very same shareholders. I also know that some others are not paying their own taxes nor their utility bills. They just pass it on to the people in the form of increased prices on goods and services they provide so an increase in rates will not harm them but might be financially beneficial to them. The majority of us do not have that privilege, however. The poor majority are the ones who are always forced to pay for everything to the point that many poor children have to skip some meals just to make the rich get richer.
    If there was a doctor who can inject some conscience into some heads out there, this world would be better.

  24. Fairman says:

    This is not the right time to ask whether the government should increase or bring down electricity rates, knowing fully well that the foreign investors have left behind some huge debts. We need to give them time to investigate and analyze the records if they have not been destroyed or falsified. After they get everything under control we can demand a true and complete situation report from them and then decide the way forward.
    I do not expect any anti-government comments from the self-declared bankrupt foreign company because they should be glad that the government of Belize has relieved them of their burden.

  25. bzeanbrain says:

    This is nationalization a la Hugo Chavez.. I agree with @ron yates analysis. @belizean to the bone, have you seen Venezuela economy and people benefit from the nationalization. No, the people are poorer and oppressed. It seems that DOB took a page from Chavez!

  26. Belize says:

    I Say yes to nationalization but no to udpnalization

  27. Disappointed says:

    Again I say it all Belizean do is talk talk talk. We are just a bunch of scared, no action people and the politicians knows this, that is why they do as they please because they know we will flap our lips for a couple days and then move on to the next issue and in the mean time they have achieved what they want to achieve to fortify themselves and their friends and family.

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