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#450269 - 11/02/12 12:16 PM PM Woos Pvt Sector At Business Forum
Marty Offline
We've already shown you the newsy bits of today's Business Forum with the Prime Minister - but the forum itself was news - if only for the fact that so many business people think the Barrow government just can't get it right when it comes to business.

The forum represents an attempt to do just that - and today the Prime Minister's office put its best foot forward for the business community. Here's how it went:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
Held under the theme Partnering for Growth - the Business Forum played to a full house at the Jungle Pavilion at Old Belize.

Almost all of the 200 plus seats were filled - and the event was hosted by the Economic Development Council - a body which came out of last year's summit and is now a secretariat in the Prime Minister's Office which meets bi-weekly.

Kay Menzies, Co chairman Economic Development Council
"The year since the Prime Minister held the first economic forum has truly been a learning experience. It is not an easy thing to: one, get the public and private sector to speak and understand each other's language. Two, decide what from a fairly long list of urgent issues should and can be tackled first. Three, decide how best to tackle that what which we decide to tackle."

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"The main focus of this Forum is, through ongoing and intensive collaboration and cooperation between the public and private sectors, to identify and implement those approaches, activities and operations that will raise the level of business activity in Belize on a sustainable basis."

And tackling crime is - according to the Prime Minister - the top national priority.

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"We all recognize and freely concede that crime is without a doubt the major domestic issue at this time. Let me just say though that we fully recognize that crime and in particular, violent crime is a societal evil that is also a major obstacle to the growth and even the maintenance of business activity levels that security is now a critically important business cost area that there is no way we can give in to a climate that holds entire communities including the commercial sector hostage."

"So Government will wheel and come again. We have re-strategized, we will re-mobilize, we will re-operationalize. We believe we have finally found a way to get the shooters off the streets and into an institution."

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"We have a way of utilizing some little known laws that will allow us to take people off the streets and incarcerate them not in the context of the normal criminal sentencing policies but in the context of provisions that allow for people to be put away in the context of their anti-social behavior."

And while there's a new plan for crime - or at least punishment - there's also a plan for middle class mortgages:

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"So that first time would be home owners experiencing difficulty in raising their 10% contribution would be assisted with this programme. In order to actualize this Government has actually earmarked an initial $3.5 million for the programme. This would assist a minimum of 350 borrowers with their equity part of the total equation, which would in turn represent an aggregate sum of $35 million in new housing construction."

And those loans of no more than one hundred thousand would be made from the DFC or commercial banks - which - at this summit - unlike the last one - the PM seemed to have very little trouble with:

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"There is currently $131m in excess liquidity in the banking system. And while there is still the issue of a widening spread between deposit and lending rates, the fact is that the latter is at an historic low of 12.23%. So in terms of both the quantity and cost 57:01 of capital, the winds are in the private sector's sails."

And at today's forum, that private sector seemed receptive.

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"The fact is that there has been this tremendous improvement in the relations between the public and private sectors over the past year, and far greater realism and understanding on both sides."

But, it's not a stretch to say that - with the economy still in the doldrums - the business sector needs more than understanding:

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Of course, I am the first to concede that by the next time we meet we will have to be able to enumerate a far longer list of deliverables that have actually been achieved."

This year the media was only allowed to tape the opening address - and not the main session. We'd say that move was probably to avoid any possibility of us capturing a repeat of the timeless tongue lashing the PM put on former Agriculture CEO Gabino Canto. But, from what we are told, this year's session was civil and continued until after the lunch hour.

Channel 7

#450273 - 11/02/12 12:24 PM Re: PM Woos Pvt Sector At Business Forum [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Prime Minister of Belize Holds Business Forum Tackling Issues of Corruption, Crime, Citrus and Super Bond

Almost one year ago the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow held a business forum with the private sector to discuss partnering efforts with the government.  At the same location at Old Belize, the PM met again today with the same group as furtherance to that discussion on the development of Belize’s economy.  One of the itchy topics has been the super bond, which the government has been attempting to re-negotiate with the international lending partners.

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister


“You know that on August 8, our liability management team published three options for sustainable debt exchange offer and these scenarios have formed the basis for negotiations with a creditor committee and with non-committee bond holders over the last ten weeks – nobody ever said it would be easy – the negotiations continue.  I go up to Miami this weekend to meet with our advisors preparatory to a face to face meeting that they will then have with the people representing the creditor committee.  So, the process is well in-train; I’m grateful for the expressions of support made by the BCCI and the EDC after they met with our team.  Our team will re-engage with the business community and other leaders as soon as there is or is not final consensus on new terms for this debt.  Also important in this connection is the fact of a special technical assistance program being conducted by the IMF at the Belize’s request; the intention is to bolster our debt management capacity and the experts from the funds’ capital market division is already in country to execute that mission simultaneously with the 2012 Article 4 review.”

The Prime Minister said that since last year’s forum, the reduction of electricity and water rates is the most notable development.  Electricity rates were cut by six percent and water rates by 7.2 percent.  But perhaps even more significant that that now, at least for people whose lives and business depend heavily on the use of the internet, is that we will soon have broader bandwidth access at much cheaper rates than what is currently charged.    

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister


 “Yesterday, the BTL Board of Directors agreed that the company will once more give its internet customers increased bandwidth at reduced prices.  Accordingly, the 128k internet speed will go from $49.00 per month to $25.00 per month; all other DSL internet speeds will double but for less than the current price.  As examples: one megabyte which currently costs three hundred dollars will only sell for one hundred and forty dollars per month and two megabytes sold now for five hundred dollars will cost only two hundred and forty dollars so that going back to the one megabyte example – the customer currently pays three hundred dollars per month but that customer can now go up to two megabytes for two hundred and forty dollars for less than the three hundred dollars that he currently pays for one megabyte he can go to two megabytes.  These reductions will take place later this month so that people can make their new arrangements and enjoy the reductions on the December bill.  I want you to make the point that these developments are happening against the backdrop of the 4G roll out which will be fully operational next month, by the end of December.”

And crime, being what it is, described by the PM as quote, “the major domestic issue at this time”, Mr Barrow said that his government whatever it will take to wipe the violence off the city’s streets.

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister


 “We believe we have finally found a way to get the shooters off the street and into an institution thus together with our social partners and the citizenry, we will employ new means to lick this problem and in doing so we will utilize every resource, spend every dollar, pay every price until once and for all we get this thing under control and take our country back.”

Focus was also given to corruption in the public service, which has, time and again been brought to the fore on the talk shows and the news.   

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister


 “We talked about the need to ensure that in trying to clean up that corruption, we eliminate the collusion on the part of the private sector with that corruption.  I think when people visited with Miss Betty Ann Jones; she was able to show how in cases, with respect to refunds, an extra zero was added on to perhaps a ten thousand dollar refund with the obvious consequences.  So, while we are clear on the remit for legitimate refunds to be disbursed as quickly as possible, recognize that with that as with so many other things in this world, there is a bit of HP – hanky panky, that takes place.”

Following his presentation, Prime Minister Barrow spoke with reporters.  Returning to the crime issue, we asked the PM to elaborate for us on the way forward in dealing with that scourge.

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister


 “We believe that working together with the courts, we have a way of utilizing some little known laws that would allow us to take people off the streets and incarcerate them; not in the context of the normal criminal sentencing policies but in the context of provisions that allow for people to be put away in the context of their anti-social behavior.  I’m sure, as I have said that in the fullness of time or rather very shortly, the Minister will speak in detail to you about that.  That of course is going to be together with more money, as I said, being spent to operationally strengthen the police, more money for equipment, more money for better terms and conditions of service for the police officers and generally a huge financial push to ensure that we are properly outfitted, properly equipped to deal with the problem.”

Regarding the call by some sectors for the immediate resignation or removal of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, for his approach to the Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute, and specifically since the OAS Secretary General, Jose Insulza’s statement that whatever grant made to the family of the Guatemalan farmer killed by the BDF on Belizean land will not be made by the OAS, Mr Barrow sais that it was not Mr Elrington but he that made that decision.  The PM calls the gesture a humanitarian ex-gratia payment.

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister


 “It was a Cabinet decision, not to pay compensation – we don’t want to get into any kind of a word game; compensation is almost a term of art or certainly has a legal technical meaning – compensation is when you have to make amends for what you did wrong.  As a matter of international diplomacy and in the interest, we thought of moving forward with Guatemala, Cabinet agreed on a humanitarian ex-gratia payment.  That did not come from Minister Elrington, I was the one that put that to Cabinet and I stand by the decision to make a humanitarian ex-gratia payment.”

The citrus industry, also in a plight of its own recently, was also addressed in our conversation with the PM.  That topic he referred to as a complex web of issues.

Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow

Prime Minister


 “The headline-grabbing developments have to do, principally with the dispute between the CGA, as majority owners of CPBL, the processing plant and Banks Holdings, the minority owners; but minority owners that have operational control that have a veto power as a consequence agreement, an arm’s length agreement that those who were in control of CGA signed at the time.  CGA is indicating that together with another foreign private sector investor, strategic partner it can raise money to buy out Banks Holdings shares.  They need certain letters of comfort and assurance from Government; they need for us to do certain things to facilitate that borrowing and we will be very happy to do that. It is very obvious, without pointing fingers and without seeking to apportion blame that it is going to continue to prove impossible for CGA and Banks Holdings to work together.  As long as those two remain the major players, the major owners of CPBL and are deadlocked – it’s a recipe for continuing chaos.  I believe that it is absolutely accurate that Banks Holdings has said, ‘buy me out’ and I think that same investment agreement provides for the ability of one side to buy out the other.  If the money is raised, if the new strategic partner comes in and Banks Holdings exits, clearly there will be a new relationship; there will be a new paradigm in the industry.  CPBL will then not only be majority owned but will be operationally controlled by CGA and their new partner.  The atmosphere which gave rise to this continuing deadlock and dispute would have been eliminated.  There is of course, a subset of issues having to do with big-grower, small-grower tensions but I think those – the solutions to those will fall fairly naturally into place since CPBL is the only game in town with respect to processing.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow.


#450274 - 11/02/12 12:26 PM Re: PM Woos Pvt Sector At Business Forum [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Minister of National Security Speaks on New Strategies to Fight Crime

Minister of National Security John Saldivar today announced a number of new crime fighting measures.  The announcement came at the Prime Minister’s second business forum.

Hon. John Saldivar

Minister of National Security


“The Police Commissioner will be invoking today for the first time since the law was passed, the declaration of several crime infested areas of Belize City as crime ridden areas which will give his police and BDF the power to search any and all houses in the area without the need for a warrant.  This declaration will also allow the police and the BDF to restrict movement in and out of these areas.  These areas will be cordoned off and every person entering and exiting the area will by stopped and searched and a systematic house to house, house by house of these areas will be done with immediate effect.  The Police and the BDF have, for several weeks now, been conducting special operations in the City on weekends.  These operations, in our opinion, have been successful in stemming the regular weekend spate that used to full the Monday night newscasts; however, the criminals have adapted and shifted their activities to weekdays and even broad daylight.  We therefore are very quickly adapting and as of yesterday, the weekend operations of the Police and BDF have now become an everyday, seven days a week operation.  Patrols which used to be stepped up on the weekends are now stepped up on a daily basis.  Six ATVs with Police and BDF are now deployed on a daily basis; special patrols, foot patrols are now in place also on a daily basis; vehicle checkpoints are once again being strategically placed across the City to intercept and disrupt criminals; special intelligence officers who are familiar with these criminals are being placed at these checkpoints with lists of names and pictures of persons of interest, every person in whom we have an interest will be detained and held for questioning as often and as long as it takes for the Police to conduct proper investigations into the many unsolved crimes that are under investigation.  As a matter of fact, our usual Christmas special duties are being stepped up as of today.  I think most of us will agree that when the Police is employed in special operations during special activities we always seem to have great successes; we will therefore extend the Christmas special work program to start effective today.  This will result in over 25% increase in the amount of BDF and Police we have in the streets.  As of today, the Police are under instructions to begin to crack down on all those who commit petty offences and quality of life crimes.  Discipline begins with the small things and it is perhaps because of our neglect of small crimes that we now have a crisis with big crimes.  As of today, the Director of Public Prosecutions to petition the court for the imposition of stiffer conditions for bail and even the denial of bail for repeat offenders.  I am making a public call to the magistrates and judges to use their discretion afforded to them by law to impose stiffer penalties on persistent criminals, to impose stiffer conditions for bail and to even begin denying bail to the habitual criminals.  With regards to the habitual criminals especially juvenile habitual criminals, I am happy to report the Ministry of National Security has received the go ahead of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, to establish a corrective training facility where we intend to house convicted habitual juvenile criminals for a period of corrective training and discipline.  More on this proposal will be released shortly; however I can indicate from the outset that this facility will be located in the Pine Ridge area, it will be administered by the BDF personnel and the schedule of crimes, which once a conviction is secured will attract sentencing to this facility and will include misdemeanors and petty crimes that will be easily prosecuted for a conviction.”

Saldivar said the three weakest areas in the Police Department are intelligence gathering, investigation and prosecution.  The added measures will cost the Department an additional 100 thousand dollars weekly.



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