Remember U.H.S.? That’s the acronym for the former Universal Health Services hospital. But the name U.H.S. will forever be linked to the huge national controversy over whether the government should have guaranteed the U.H.S. debt to the Belize Bank. In 2007 the issue ignited U.D.P.-led demonstrations in Belmopan that erupted in the stoning of the National Assembly and other protests. In the end the P.U.P. Government decided not to get a resolution of the National Assembly before taking over U.H.S. and the debt. The A.C.B., Godwin Hulse, the N.T.U.C.B. and the Medical and Dental Officers’ Union felt so strongly, they took the matter to court. They claimed that it was illegal for the government to assume the over thirty million dollar debt owed by U.H.S. to the Belize Bank without first going to the National Assembly for a resolution under the Finance and Audit Act. They succeeded with their claim before both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. But today the Privy Council in London ruled that the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal got it wrong. The ruling handed down this morning is contained in an eighteen page judgment. The Privy Council ruled that the bank document under which the G.O.B. assumed the U.H.S. liability was a promissory note and not a loan. As such it did not require a resolution from the National Assembly under the Finance and Audit Act.
This is a major victory for the bank. It means that the U.D.P. government must pay the Belize Bank the over thirty million dollars plus interest, which will bring the debt amount close to forty million.
The issue of who will be obliged to pay costs looms large. The Privy Council will hear arguments on that in twenty-eight days. If costs are awarded in favor of the Belize Bank, it means that the A.C.B. led by Lois Young, Glen Ysaguirre, Jeremy Spooner and Kareem “Creamy” Berges, as well as the two Unions and Godwin Hulse, in his personal capacity, will have to pay costs that could amount to a few hundred thousand dollars to the Belize Bank.