We have been reporting on the precarious financial situation of Belize Electricity Limited and whether or not there will be blackouts. The issue of its nationalization was dealt with squarely by Prime Minister Dean Barrow today. B.E.L. has been unable to keep current with payments to suppliers, primarily the Comision Federal de Electricidad to which, it owes eight million dollars. Added to that there is a twelve million dollars debt to its sister company BECOL and a court case worth fifty million dollars with the Public Utilities Commission. C.E.O., Lynn Young, appealed to the government to pay at least four million dollars to keep the lights on for the next two weeks. But what is the future of B.E.L. and is the government going to take over the company? At his quarterly press conference today, P.M. Barrow, went as far as to say that while it is a question of ideological conviction, government should own essential services.
“I don’t want to prejudice negotiations with B.E.L., but I am telling you that there will be a solution. I have in my mind the team, the Cabinet has in its mind the outlines of the solution, but a lot will depend on how the talks go with B.E.L. We already had some confirmation of how serious the situation is. In terms of my phone call with Lynn Young, it appears B.E.L. has no answer. Well that is unacceptable. I don’t know where Mister Young went—perhaps he went to Canada, perhaps he went to talk to Fortis. So when he comes back in the country and we meet on Friday, he may have some solution to offer us in the interests of B.E.L. and the interests of consumers. So I really want to wait to speak with him before I report to you on how things are progressing.
“This government, the party now in government, was always ideologically opposed to the privatization of essential resources. So wherewithal apart—as a matter of philosophy and conviction and what we think is right—we believe that the people of Belize should own B.E.L. We believe that the people of this country should own B.T.L.; we believe that the people of this country should own Belize Water Services. That is a philosophical, ideological conviction if you will.
If we could wave a magic wand or snap our fingers to get back B.E.L. thereby, we would do it immediately. We know, especially if you are talking about a bankrupt company, that it would be a hell of a challenge going forward, but we would be left with no alternatives to secure the interests of people and we would also be doing what we inherently believe is correct—have the government and people of this country own the essential services. In terms of compensation, I am telling you that we are going to sit down and have what I hope will be an amicable meeting with Lynn Young. I am not telling you that government is looking to nationalize by force B.E.L. at all.”