REPORT #215 April 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

University of Belize College students studying economics should take on the MYSTERY OF THE MISSING BELIZE NATIONAL DEBT?

18 months ago, the UDP said the National Debt was $550 million. The competing PUP political party leader Said Musa said the debt was really $650 million. Up to election time and shortly thereafter, it turned out both political party leaders seemed to agree the Belize National Foreign Debt was $650 million. During the next six months after the PUP won the election, they proceeded to borrow another $400 million from Taiwan and the last half of 1999, borrowed some lesser amounts in the millions from other sources.

Without paying off any debt, one would assume that by January of the year 2000, Belize had a National Foreign Debt of $#1050 million dollars. Allowing for the the paying off of $200 million, or $100 million, not counting any interest payments, the best we could hope for by the time the new Prime Minister's budget speech came around, was a National Foreign Debt of around $900 million and might even be more than the $1050 million, if interest did not get paid.

But the craziest thing of all, was that the Prime Minister in his budget speech said the debt was only $232 million. ( approximate figures, give or take $50 million or so- hiccup!). Since then, we have learned from the port town media that some of the Taiwanese $400 million is sitting in Central Bank and was listed as RESERVES. I'm not sure how you take a loan on which you are paying interest and list it as reserves. But in the dishonest British/Caribbean accounting system, you can make the figures tell any story you want to.

It would be good practice for Belizean Accounting Economist students to get a look at real world accounting practices. If you are going to learn to do creative bookkeeping, double ledgers, and nefarious shifting of sums of money into different accounts to balance the books, the Government of Belize seems like a ripe target for a homework assignment. You have to know this stuff for the real world.

Why don't you figure out a real honest academic style budget for the year 1999? What with all the political parties professing "transparency in government", open "public records" and all that, you should be able to get copies of the statistics they used to make up that budget and then do it yourself. Just use those supposedly "honest" budget items you are taught in school, sift the balance sheets and look for mis-reported items. Those with false names, and make new names for them, take out those that should be in one column and put them in their correct columns. In the process, find out what happened to the missing BELIZE FOREIGN NATIONAL DEBT?

If you are in Belize City, then get a hold of your fellow students in the Belmopan branch of UCB and ask them to trot over to the Finance department and different departments and ask for the 1999 reports. Public records, they should be available. After all, both political parties are sworn to "transparency", aren't they? One thing you cannot do, is ask the people who prepared the budgets. In an elected one-party dictatorship, it would be unfair to ask questions of government employees. Job security and all that. Beside which, you would force them to lie to you. Just get the statistics and do your own Balance Sheet.

Find out where the missing BELIZE NATIONAL FOREIGN DEBT disappeared too? The PUP are not taking any credit, so they didn't pay it off. It is just hidden someplace. Treasure hunters, and mystery seekers. Would be accounting detectives and auditors. Here is your chance to get some real life practice in accounting.

Make a report to: [email protected] by e-mail. A lot of Belizeans are anxiously waiting the results of your audit investigation. We will see how good the teachers are teaching accounting and economics at UCB at the same time.

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