Despite the public vows of PUP Party Leader and now Prime Minister of Belize, Said Musa at the beginning of his term in office, to allow transparency in government. He and his party stand accused of drawing a veil of secrecy over the level of the Belize Foreign National Debt. In this game of hidden secrets, hidden passageways, double bookkeeping and other nefarious machinations, the Economic Correspondent on assignment for the Reporter newspaper in the port of Belize City, the one district town of six district capitals that controls the whole nation of Belize was unable to penetrate the figures involved with the foreign debt of Belize.
In an article of May 14, 2000, it was reported the little that was able to be found out. Most of this was money supply movements by Central Bank Reports. The lack of detail was noticable, explanations non-existant and even some mis-reporting in different itemizing to color the factual results.
The article went on to accuse the current Finance Minister of Ralph Fonseca with obstructionism and perhaps even arrogance! It says in the article, "the Minister of Finance apparently feels no obligation to report to the Belizean public." That sort of statement is very mild. It either denotes an arrogance of ego, or is simply a con man who has mis-manipulated the finances of government so badly, that he is covering his tracks and trying to keep his head low until things blow over, or the whole mess blows up in his face! If it blows up in his face, the ordinary man/women in the street is going to be the one to pay for it with loss of all savings.
Belize under the PUP is enjoying a BUBBLE of economic re-surgence. The only trouble with the bubble of economic prosperity is that it is financed by foreign loan borrowings. Therein lies the problem with the secrecy surrounding the foreign loans.
The Economic Correspondent for the Reporter article could not find out what interest payments we are paying on any foreign loans. Certainly not the Taiwanese $400 million or so and the many millions being borrowed since, from all and sundry. The Belize Development Trust has tried to keep a running tab on the National Foreign Debt from loan announcements in the media. This however, is a very inaccurate method of getting a total. To date, the total of the announced Belize Foreign National Debt has risen from $650 million to $1250 million in the last year and a half. In that same time, the government has only enjoyed about $500 million in revenue and that is stretching it quite a bit. It is widely believed that most of that money is compromised for interest payments that must be paid for with foreign exchange. Be it US dollars, Euro dollars or the Yen. Even with a generous allowance for interest and some capital loan repayment, that would only reduce the estimated Belize Foreign National Debt to around $900 million under the best case scenario.
Coupled with the lack of government financial information and any knowledge of interest rates payable on different loans from abroad, it is impossible for independent economists to draw any good conclusions on how we stand as a nation. Why do we want to know?
Quite simple really. How can you forecast future economic activity for your private business if you don't know the government's foreign indebtedness? The government has to pay off that debt, it has to make interest payments and to do that, it has to control and seize all foreign exchange coming into the country. We do know the Central Bank has gone from a Fall temporary seasonal shortage of foreign exchange, which traditionally was lifted in January as the tourist season came on line and sugar payments flowed in from abroad in foreign exchange. But that picture has changed since the PUP have been in office. The word on the financial street is that foreign exchange is more scarce than onions and potatoes nowadays. (Another artificial monopoly government created crisis!) That the Central Bank is rationing foreign exchange year round now, trying to balance the PUP government interest loan payments and still keep the economic engine going.
The Reporter article says that the time may soon be coming, when there is not going to be any foreign exchange for the small business person and when that happens, we are going to see the PUP Fonseca bubble burst with a BIG BANG! The bubble will burst and businesses are going to have a big recession. I hope it never comes true. But I sure wouldn't bet on it.
What is really needed is transparency by the PUP cabinet party machine, controlled by the townie political party MAFIA from the port town of Belize City. People and short term future business levels depend on understanding the finances of government and why and how policies are made and followed.
So far, the PUP party stand accused of being liars when they talk of transparency in government with regard to the financial affairs of the country of Belize. No information de der!