It is no exaggeration to say that Prime Minister Barrow has surprised the nation with his speedy and skilful resolution of the dispute with the Ashcroft interests over BTL.
This deal is good for Belize for many reasons.
Firstly, it gets rid of a troublesome dispute, and it shows to the world that Belize is serious about meeting its financial obligations.
Secondly, the settlement is structured in such a way that it does not impoverish Belize or put its resources under strain, as so many predicted.
BTL itself will bear full responsibility for taking care of this debt, paying off proposed Treasury Bills of $48.5 million over 10 years, with a managable $4.85 million a year. In meeting its overall target of $97.4 million it will have some help from the Petro Caribe Fund, which is chipping in with a modest $19 million.
Thirdly, Belizeans will not be sharing its ownership of BTL with anybody else. If at any time in the future the Government of Belize should decide to sell more of BTL’s shares to Belizeans, that will come as gravy for the company because its essential financial obligations to the Ashcroft Group will have been fully met.
Fourthly, the Barrow government is not leaving any heavy financial burden on the shoulder of any in-coming government, as the Musa Government did. All the debt for BTL have been neatly taken care of, and no future government will have to struggle with a BTL millstone around its neck with Mr. Ashcroft yapping at its heels.
Fifthly Belize is finally free of all Ashcroft claims. The settlement agreement was reached in record time, which shows that there was goodwill on both sides.
There are still a few loose ends to tie up. Mr. Ashcroft has been claiming that his company’s shares at the time of the take-over were worth $10.00 each. But he has accepted payment of 72 cents per share and agreed to take whatever value the Caribbean Court of Justice may decide the shares are worth.
The value of .72 cents was set by NERA Economic Consulting, a global firm of independent experts dedicated to applying economic, finance, and quantitative principles to complex business and legal challenges. The Prime Minister has said he does not expect to see much variance in this value.
All in all, Belize has made an unbelievably good deal, and Prime Minister Dean Barrow has emerged once more as a negotiator of stature and influence. Clearly the Oposition inside the House and Senate and outside are not happy!
They have been left in the dust, holding on to an empty bag!