CCJ Orders UDP Government to Pay US$78 Million in 10 days.

Today, Belize suffered yet another blow as a result of the nationalization of Belize Telemedia Limited by the current UDP Government. The CCJ has ordered the Government to pay US$78 million on or before 10 November 2017 to the former shareholders of Telemedia.
This order by the CCJ is a direct result of the poorly drafted Settlement Agreement negotiated and signed by the Prime Minister in September 2015, by which the Government gave a virtual blank check to the former shareholders of Telemedia. This Settlement Agreement was signed two months before the general elections of November 2015.
The People’s United Party again strongly condemns the UDP Government for signing a one-sided Settlement Agreement that has had a serious impact on Belize. The nationalization of Telemedia has turned out to be an extremely expensive blunder by the Government and a get rich scheme for UDP families and cronies.
The Prime Minister promised that he had negotiated a deal that would leave tens of millions for charitable purposes. Today we find out that this is not true and only a quarter of a million dollars will be available in the Hayward Charitable Belize Trust for charitable purposes and even so at all times subject to the objects and consent of the Trust not the Government of Belize. This is an absolute disaster for Belize and it is now clear
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that the Prime Minister misled Belizeans about the supposed advantages of this deal. Again, we remind Belizeans that the Prime Minister made this promise in the months just before the 2015 elections. An election gimmick.
The CCJ’s order today that US$78mn has to be paid by the Government in 10 days is serious. This is approximately one-quarter of the current reserves. The need to pay is just before Christmas when demands on foreign reserves are at the highest. The PUP calls on the Government to ensure that however it solves this problem it ensures that the Belizean dollar is not threatened. Additionally, we insist that the Government must ensure that the Belizean business community should have access to foreign reserves in the ordinary course notwithstanding this Court Order.
Finally, the PUP assures the Belizean people that it will take legal advice in order to find out who should be held responsible for this scandalous disaster that has caused the Belizean people to have to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for Telemedia. There has been clear misfeasance in public office and we will insist on accountability.

SENATE TO DEBATE AMENDMENT TO MARITIME AREAS ACT

In an unprecedented move the People’s United Party has filed a Motion in the Senate seeking permission of the Senate to debate an amendment to the Maritime Areas Act. The Motion will be debated at the next sitting of the Senate.
The proposed amendment is designed to remove those sections of the Maritime Areas Act that would have enabled a negotiated settlement of the claim by Guatemala to Belizean territory. If approved, the amendment would mean that Belize will claim all its territorial seas and exclusive economic zone as provided for under international law.
Commenting on this development, PUP Leader Hon John Briceno said: “The Party has been urging to Government to make this move; they continue to fail to do their duty to Belize. We have decided that it is time to be proactive and to protect Belize as the Government has chosen not to do so.”
Senator Courtenay said that the PUP Senators are lobbying all non-Government Senators to support the Motion and the Bill.

Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee

The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Hon. Julius Espat and Committee Member the Hon. Kareem Musa condemn in no uncertain terms the non-appearance of the four UDP Ministers on the Committee at the session today, at which the Auditor-General would have been questioned about the many irregularities detailed in her 2012-2013 Report. It is no less than a clear disrespect of the proceedings, disregard for any oversight and it must be seen as an attempt to derail the session. It is also a grave disservice to the Belizean people because the irregularities which are to be discussed and debated by the P.A.C. involve abuses of the PEOPLE’S money by this current administration.

The Chairman condemns the duplicity of Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who speaks out of two sides of his mouth. When questioned recently, the PM stated, “The Public Accounts Committee, the Chairman has already signaled, will be meeting shortly and will go through the report in a way that will see the public being able to follow along and to be educated as to what is exactly on the report and as to any possible explanations there might be. That is how it should be and that’s how it is.”

But after saying that, the decision was made by the four UDP Ministers on the Committee that the public would be locked out of the P.A.C. meetings. And now, the four UDP Ministers do not attend the meeting. Is the Prime Minister seeking to hide the corruption of his Ministers from the light of day? If so, it is an act of disrespect at the highest level of government, because the financial irregularities to be discussed involve the people’s money. If the Prime Minister has sanctioned the non-appearance of his four Ministers at the PAC meeting today, as he condones the actions of his UDP Ministers wherever corruption rears its ugly head, then he himself must be accused of corruption.

The Chairman reminds the Prime Minister and the members of his Cabinet that they serve at the whim of the Belizean people, and that they are all – even those who think they are above the law – answerable to the Belizean people yesterday, today and tomorrow.

DEADLINES FOR NATIONAL CONVENTION

The National Executive of the People’s United Party (PUP) convened today, October 12, 2017 to set the following deadlines for the upcoming National Convention as stipulated in Article 26(10) of the Party’s Constitution:

  1. All members of the National Executive except the Secretary General, Chairpersons of the Regional Caucuses, Presidents of the Order of Distinguished Service (ODS), United Women’s Group (UWG), Belize Youth Movement (BYM) and the Marshall’s Community Service Corps (MCSC) shall be elected at the National Convention to be held on Sunday, November 26, 2017 in Belize City.
  1. Nominations for such officers shall be submitted in writing to the Party Chairman no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 27, 2017 and be accompanied by the written consent of the nominee.
  1. Delegate lists from Constituency Committee Chairpersons as well as the ODS, UWG, BYM and MCSC shall be submitted to the Party Chairman no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, October 27, 2017.

The PUP looks forward to the upcoming National Convention.  As a Party, we remain fully committed to our democratic principles.

PUP Demands Cancellation of Bloated Contracts

The People’s United Party condemns the awarding of a grossly bloated contract for the ‘reconstruction’ of one mile of Faber’s Road to Imer Hernandez, nephew of disgraced former Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega. There is no rational justification for this portion of road costing $8M when the conventional rule of thumb for routine reconstruction of roadways is $1M per mile. With Municipal Elections just months away, it is clear that this is nothing but an attempt to enrich select UDP Ministers and cronies and pad election coffers.

We note that in 2016, Cisco Construction was awarded a contract for major works on 3.5 miles of the Phillip Goldson Highway, including the widening of the entire stretch by 10 feet, placement of lights and the construction of a heavy duty retaining wall to stop erosion of the riverbank. That contract worked out to less than $4M a mile. It is beyond comprehension that routine works on 1-mile of Faber’s Road would be almost double that.

It is not the first time that Minister of Works Rene Montero has been scrutinized for bloated contracts. Almost $7M was recently awarded for the paving of a short stretch of road in Santa Elena, from the Loma Luz Boulevard to the Hawkesworth Bridge. In addition, Montero was also involved in the awarding of the contract to an under-qualified construction company owned by his brother for the completion of the Twin Towns municipal building and allegedly a multi-million-dollar contract for the completion of the Marshalleck Stadium in Benque Viejo Del Carmen.

The PUP calls on all social partners and other entities with a stake in the development of the country and who are fighting corruption to stand against the awarding of these bloated contracts. This is nothing more than business as usual in the UDP where select persons gorge at the public trough while the majority of normal Belizeans remain poor. We call on the Prime Minister to immediately rein in his Minister of Works who has seen his fortunes improve beyond all proportion while in office.

It is time to change how things are done! We call on all Belizeans to take a stand against the corruption which has affected every facet of our development.

Ms. Kylah Ciego is Belize’s New CARICOM Youth Ambassador

Belize City, October 10th 2017– The BYM firmly believes in fostering the new generation in any and all leadership roles. We believe our youth are the agents for change and the implementation of a second Peaceful Constructive Belizean Revolution. In the words of Hillary Clinton, “Young people are at the heart of today’s great strategic opportunities and challenges, from rebuilding the global economy to combating violent extremism to building sustainable democracies.”
Therefore, it is with pleasure that we embrace the young and energetic Ms. Kylah Ciego of Dangriga Town, and wish her all the best as the new female CARICOM Youth Ambassador. Ms. Ciego has proven herself as a young leader and professional serving her community to the best of her capacity.
In her own words, “I am passionate about supporting youth development and believe that in this era of globalization and connectedness we must be cognizant of the impact of our actions on others as we shape the type of world for future generations.”
The BYM commits to supporting you as you give the youth of Belize a voice on the regional and international stage.

PUP Condemns the Hike in Fuel

September 22, 2017 —The People’s United Party is gravely concerned and dismayed by the recent increases in fuel prices that have occurred over the past two weeks. These new pump prices with premium gasoline reaching almost twelve dollars per gallon in Belize City today are among the highest in history, even though the cost of crude oil on the world market is hovering around fifty dollars per barrel.

Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceno said “the People’s United Party will not stand on the sidelines and just watch the government saddle the backs of the Belizean people with these exorbitant fuel prices, of which some forty-three percent is collected by this UDP Government in the form of taxes.” The PUP is calling on the government to immediately reduce the taxes on fuel which will help to ease the burden on the Belizean people who are already struggling to make ends meet as a result of a stagnant economy and very high cost of living.

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION BRIEFS THE DIPOLMATIC CORPS ON THE TRUE STATE OF THE NATION

Today at the Biltmore Plaza Hotel, the Leader of the Opposition Honorable John Briceño briefed the Resident and Non-resident Ambassadors and other members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps in Belize on the true state of the Nation.

At this historic event, diplomats were briefed on the rampant  corruption in public office, the refusal of the Government to allow the Public Accounts Committee and the Integrity Commission to perform their proper functions to ensure transparency and accountability, the threat to our democracy by the armed forces attacking the media and the members of Opposition at peaceful demonstrations, the unconstitutional appointment to the Court of Appeal, the abundant challenges facing the agro-productive sector and business community in general who continue to suffer the impact of the ever increasing cost of fuel, and an economy that is plagued with anemic growth and a debt that has increased to 100% of GDP.

The Leader of the Opposition also addressed recent developments surrounding Belize and Guatemala, and expressed his Party’s continued dissatisfaction with the Government’s handling of Belize Guatemala relations by the Government.

GUATEMALAN AGGRESSION & TRESPASS

The People’s United Party expresses its strongest condemnation of the actions of the Guatemalan Armed Forces and the inaction of the Government of Belize following the blatant harassment of Belizeans within our territorial waters this weekend.

We have been informed and presented with video evidence which clearly shows that at least four Guatemalan gunboats with armed personnel entered and remained within our waters at the Sarstoon as Belizeans participated in the 2nd Annual Sarstoon Island Eco-Challenge organized by the Belize Territorial Volunteers. The GAF clearly executed manoeuvres designed to intimidate paddlers in their kayaks and organizers/service personnel in vessels. We are also informed that the GAF turned back one of the vessels and did not allow it to approach Sarstoon Island.

Guatemalans stationed at the Sarstoon have maintained operational control of the entire Sarstoon River, and the Government of Belize through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has committed a gross error in allowing this to happen. On various occasions SATIIM rangers have been turned back from routine patrols of the Sarstoon Temash National Park, and we know that the media has also met with Guatemalan aggression multiple times.

Our government has not taken a strong, unequivocal stance to support our territorial sovereignty over half of the Sarstoon including the Sarstoon Island. During these occasions of Guatemalans aggressing Belizeans, our military has never intervened, due to instructions coming from our Government leaders. Over this past weekend, as GAF vessels operated just in front of the BDF base at the Sarstoon, there was no movement from the BDF to assert our sovereignty or to protect Belizean lives.

The PUP calls on Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington to ACT NOW to protect our territorial integrity. If they will not act, we call on them to tell the Belizean people how we lost the Sarstoon which we sing about in our National Anthem. As we prepare to celebrate our Independence, the people deserve to know the truth.

PUP Concerned About SSB Over-Exposure in GOB

September 14, 2017 – The recent revelation that over 80% of $458M of the Social Security Board’s investment portfolio held in government interests is of serious concern to the People’s United Party, and should be of concern to all Belizeans. With a thorough review of the audited and monthly financials, it becomes immediately evident that the Government is using the people’s monies to advance its political agenda.

The SSB’s investments are over-concentrated in government loans, statutory boards and government-controlled institutions such as the National Bank, which continues to operate at a loss. The government controlled BTL and BEL takes up as much as 33.5% of SSB’s investment portfolio in shares and debentures. Other investments are in the Belize Airports Authority, Belize Water Services Limited, Development Finance Corporation (DFC), as well as the Belize City Council Bonds.

Our concern grows when we consider that only a year ago there was over $130M in liquid assets in the banks and today merely $25m is deposited in the commercial banks, and of this only $16m is in short term deposits. This is a threat to contributors and beneficiaries of SSB whose payment of benefits, especially in the short and medium term, require considerable amounts of liquidity.  In addition, of the $25m about half is deposited at a single bank.

While SSB plays an important role in the development of the economy, steps should be taken to limit the concentration of the portfolio with any one institution. This holds true with the placement of certificates of deposit with any one bank. In placing CDs the bank and its assets and liabilities should be properly analyzed. Liquidity of the investments is a foremost consideration in the implementation of an investment in accordance with actuarial recommendations, taking into consideration that the increase in reserves will arise exclusively from a decreasing share of investment income in the medium term.

Given the recent information on the status of the GOB’s financial situation it is alarming that so much of the monies paid by the workers and employers to the SSB could be in jeopardy. This fund is the main safety net for thousands of Belizean workers in time of sickness and old age. We call on the Social Partners represented on the Board of Directors of the SSB to ensure that the fund is not placed in a positon of undue risk.

The latest press release sent out by the Belize Airports Authority (BAA) stating that a $7m loan to upgrade the Caye Caulker airstrip is expected to come from the SSB raises further concerns for it comes on the heels of a $17m loan for the upgrading of the Municipal Airstrip which as we understand is only 65% completed.

The funds at the Social Security Board belong to the Belizean people. This is the people’s money. The People’s United Party will remain vigilant in protecting the people’s money against the undue risks taken by the UDP for political expediency.