By Alexis R. Milan
The private sector has offered its support for the government’s recent Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) settlement with Fortis as well as several loan motions to improve the quality of education and highway infrastructure in the country.
Private sector Senator Mark Lizarraga said that the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) is vindicated and glad that the BEL nationalization was settled amicably, which was the advice of the BCCI from the outset. He explained that if confrontation were continued, this could have potentially cost the government hundreds of millions in damages and much more in legal fees.
He added that the private sector is also glad that the government brought about the end of the dispute by way of partnership and cooperation rather than confrontation.
Lizarraga also said that the private sector did, however, have concerns about the unknown legal fees, and the terms of the perpetual tax concessions given to Fortis and suggested that perhaps, the time has come to end all taxes on dividends so as to encourage more investment, growth and employment.
Lizarraga said the Chamber had long encouraged GOB to use PetroCaribe financing to retire expensive debts, so it is willing to support GOB’s motion to pay Fortis using $70 million from the PetroCaribe fund.
GOB also requested $10 million worth of financing from PetroCaribe to retire a bond held by the Belize Defense Force (BDF), which the Chamber also supported.
Lizarraga, who on behalf of the business community has called out GOB for excessive borrowing in the past, said the Chamber was grateful for being provided with the details and terms as they relate to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Belize Education Sector Reform Program II Loan Motion 2015, which is a US $35 million to finance various projects in the education sector.
The private sector also supported the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) the George Price Highway Rehabilitation Loan Motion 2015, US $27 million loan to finance the improvement of the highway between Belmopan and Santa Elena.