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PM Barrow and Chamber lock horns

By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter

Prime Minister Dean Barrow and the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) engaged in a heated exchange of press releases this week over the pending $90 million payment in the settlement of the Universal Health Services (UHS) arbitration award.

The Chamber fired the first release on Wednesday, condemning both the previous People’s United Party and current United Democratic Party administrations for their roles in what has become a huge debt burden that must be shouldered by the Belizean people.

The BCCI accused the government of “reckless legal gambling” which resulted in a debt more than twice the size of the initial arbitration award. The Chamber noted that given the court’s ruling that GOB must pay, it is obligated to do so because “no respectable organization can countenance deliberate defiance of the country’s highest court.”
The Chamber went on to say that “a ‘No’ vote (in parliament) may score political points, but will not erase the liability brought upon Belize by two governments.”

Barrow, in his response, chastised the Chamber, accusing it of “duplicity”, “hypocrisy”, and “dishonesty” in now adopting a position that the government should pay, after successive victories in local courts. Barrow also suggested the Chamber was anti-nationalist and pro-colonialism.

He went on to say that if government had decided to pay the debt during any of the court pronouncements that the UHS guarantee was illegal, that the public and the Chamber would have been against it.
“The unbroken string of legal victories (until now in the CCJ) against this rotten deal, is all the UDP will ever need to vindicate the fact of the correctness, necessity and justice of its stand. And it is in stark contrast to the vacillation, inconstancy and bird-of-passage weakness of the Chamber,” Barrow said.

He closed his letter by posing a scenario to the Chamber, asking if it would support recommending heightened taxes to the business sector to pay for what it now views as a debt of honor.
The Chamber has not issued any reply.

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