Musa & Narda Garcia on Fort Barlee

On Monday night's news we showed you that Social Security had acquired Fort Barlee and the government administrative centre in Corozal Town. We say "acquired" and not "bought" because no cash was exchanged, government handed over the property to settle a $1.85 million debt Social Security incurred when it was forced to cover a default by Glenn Godfrey's St. James Building Society. As we told you on Monday, Social Security will now build its Corozal headquarters on that property and construct another building to rent to government for all its administrative offices.

For the government, it seems to hardly make sense because it's like selling your house to rent it back from the same person. But the wisdom is not in the purchase. According to the Prime Minister, it's in the great deal they'll get on rent. We spoke to both the Prime Minister who is the minister responsible for Social Security and Social Security CEO Narda Garcia to find out about the future of the Fort Barlee property.

Rt. Hon. Said Musa, Minister of Finance
Social Security bought the property, which is the old administration compound, and they'll be putting a new complex there and the government will be allowed, at a reasonable rent, to have all its facilities there concentrated in one area, so it will be a great improvement for Corozal town."

Keith Swift,
Is it worth 2 million dollars?

Rt. Hon. Said Musa,
"Of course. You only have to go and look at the size and its right downtown, in front of the park, it's a huge compound, so I have no doubt."

Jules Vasquez,
Miss Garcia is Social Security now in the business of buying antiquities? I see it had bought Fort Barlee in the Corozal Town.

Narda Garcia,
"No Jules we did not buy the Fort, we bought the land that the Fort surrounds and in fact we are very interested in rehabilitating that Fort because right now the way it is being used, it is not, for lack of a better word, it is not conducive to any good tourist site or anything. We want to bring it back as part of the project that we have for that entire plaza. I think the Chairman commented to you that we will build our Social Security building there first and later on we'll put up buildings for the government to rent."

Jules Vasquez,
In the interest of fund contributions, should we expect that you will rent it to them at fair market value and not at some preferential rate because it's the government of Belize?

Narda Garcia,
"No Jules we currently rent to the government. In Belmopan for example the Plaza Theatre is the property of the Social Security Board and we don't rent it at preferential rate, we rent it at market value and we do well for the fund."

Keith Swift,
But government will now have to pay rent to Social Security Board.

Rt. Hon. Said Musa,
"Yes but the understanding is that it will be at a very reasonable rates, almost nominal."

Keith Swift,
Some people would speculate that the Social Security was given this to cover Glenn Godfrey's debt that SSB had to buy.

Rt. Hon. Said Musa,
"It has nothing to do with Glenn Godfrey's debt. I don't know why Channel 7 keeps harping about, everything has to do with Glenn Godfrey's debt. This has nothing to do with Glenn Godfrey, absolutely nothing."

Jules Vasquez,
Was Social Security interested in buying that or was it forced into buying it because government didn't have the $1.8 million to reimburse in cash for payment for St. James?

Narda Garcia,
"Actually we approached because we were looking for a spot in Corozal town but we wanted a spot in the center and then that came up and they owed us money and we sought to write off or to exchange the monies for that piece of land and its a very valuable piece of land."

And when the Prime Minister would wish that this had nothing to do with Glenn Godfrey's debt, in fact it has everything to do with it, at least according to the Prime Minister's Financial Secretary Dr. Carla Barnett. In October, she wrote to Narda Garcia telling her that the value of the property will be accepted as "full reimbursement of $1.849 million...paid by Social Security in respect of mortgage payments due from St. James Building Society." Barnett closes by adding that the Prime Minister has agreed to the proposal.