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A One on One with Lord Michael Ashcroft on National Issues #549667
04/22/21 04:30 AM
04/22/21 04:30 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 83,968
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
On Open Your Eyes...

Re: A One on One with Lord Michael Ashcroft on National Issues [Re: Marty] #549694
04/22/21 12:52 PM
04/22/21 12:52 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 83,968
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Lord Ashcroft Explains Waterloo Proposal

Last week, the environmental community came out swinging at the Department of Environment which granted environmental clearance to David Gegg’s Port Magical.  They said that Magical will have negative environmental impact, particularly when taken in context with other proposed cruise ship ports. Among these other projects is the Waterloo Holdings proposal.  The plans include onshore berthing for large cruise ships and a bulk handling facility for imports and exports.  The project is awaiting government clearance, and today Lord Michael Ashcroft addressed the economic benefits for Belize City and identified the majority stakeholders in the project. He also responded to a major concern of environmental activists, saying there will be no offshore waste disposal.

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“It will create something like two and a half direct and indirect jobs on the southside in Port Loyola and it is a two hundred million US dollar project most of which will be foreign currency. I believe it will be the biggest ever infrastructure project for Belize and at this point the economic cycle, rather brave.”

Marleni Cuellar, Host, Open Your Eyes

“Many look at this project and say do we really need another docking facility?”

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“All of these are fair arguments and this is why decisions have to be made. From my personal view, if there is no Waterloo project on one hand there will be a sigh of relief because for me to embark at my age in trying to put together a project of this size is no mean feat but it also important to understand for those who feel a certain animosity towards me personally is that at the end of the day on this project I will only personally have something like twenty or twenty-five percent, the majority will be the international port operators and international investors but if Belize doesn’t want the major cruise, the oasis class to come, that must be a policy decision, because they have made it clear that they will not come to ports in which there is tendering onto the onshore. In Belize it is about sixty percent come ashore because of the tendering and onshore they estimate that ninety percent will come so there will be a greater amount of tourists that will come ashore to be able to spend money and enjoy the country. So, what has happened so far is that the environmentalist have given the go ahead but that is not a sort of government type of approval so time will tell as to what happens.”

Marleni Cuellar

“The main pushback has been from the environmental groups who are concerned about this level of impact on the environment?”

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“Well, just to get that clear, the environmentalists believe that offshore dumping of the dredging will affect either the reef or the sea at that particular point. In the first instance, Waterloo went around the world to get scientific evidence to demonstrate that this is not necessarily the case. The government has made it clear that politically it is difficult to accept that there will be offshore dumping. Having said that, Waterloo has informed the environmentalists that it can go forward with onshore dumping. So, that is the situation it is at the moment. But clearly there can’t be three ports built but commercial reality will bite in at some point and everyone will go running around having a pop at everybody else.”

Lord Ashcroft Sounds Off on Economic Issues in Belize. Is the IMF a Solution?

Lord Michael Ashcroft also spoke about the current economic crunch that Belize is facing. Ashcroft says that the government is staring down a tough decision, but one that must be made sooner rather than later.  He put the challenges in context with the unions’ position on proposed measures to say that there are options to pursue, like the I.M.F., but that will also come with consequences, including the potential for a devaluation of the Belizean dollar. Here’s how he puts it.

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“There is no point in running away from the fact that the economy is in a serious condition. There is no point in trying to escape that really. So, the issue that the politicians – the government has to face is what the path is now going forward. You can see that it is not possible to balance the budget as things stand. So, something has to break. So, the government looks at the expenditure and says that government expenditures, especially wages – civil servants – is a major component of that especially now in their view trying to address that particular issue. You have seen the consequences of that from the reaction from the PSU, the teachers, the police and others to that measure. But this is also a time to have a look at the income side and I do have a sympathy for the civil servants at the moment of being first in line to take the cut. But I do think that measure should now be taken and there has to be some dynamic leadership which the Prime Minister is trying to put together. We have such things should we enter an IMF program, certainly it is something that should be considered and there is a fear about going into an IMF program but if Belize puts forward its particular red lines for the IMF for discussion, for example, we are not prepared to devalue our currency, then a program with the IMF will give both technical expertise, it will give access to financing; donor contributions and so that side of things does have an advantage.”

Marleni Cuellar, Host, Open Your Eyes

“The IMF has warned that if we continue on this path we may very well face devaluation. Do you think that is a reality?”

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“Yes, of course it is. There is no doubt by any criteria that the Belize dollars is overvalued against the US dollar.”

Lord Ashcroft Speaks on Belize Bank-Scotiabank Merger

At the end of March, Scotia Bank closed, ending more than fifty years in Belize as signs were taken down after the bank was acquired by Belize Bank Corporation Limited, a subsidiary of Caribbean Investment Holdings Limited.  Belize Bank is now the largest commercial bank in Belize. When he appeared on Open Your Eyes this morning, Lord Ashcroft talked about what this means for banking in Belize.

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“We are having a good look at where the business goes from this particular point but one of the most exciting things is which, again, the bank is hoping to announce and there has already been advertising on TV is something called e-cash.”

Marleni Cuellar, Host, Open Your Eyes

“The opportunity in being able to merge the largest and second largest banks in Belize what does that mean for the future, the vision of what will now be this expanded bank?”

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“Part of it is a hope that there is in Central Bank at the moment a fully drafted securities act which will enable the bank to do such things as providing bond financing for companies and to broaden the scope and I think that type of activity needs to be there. I think there needs to be more syndication of loans to businesses as well, it is not just one bank – Belize Bank will talk to another bank and say let’s have a combined bond to help develop this project so and so forth and so I think this will give a greater scope. But also to do this merger during a COVID or difficult economic time there are certain risks involved. We are having to compromise on a number of customers who are running into difficulties and you have to accept that is part of the cycle and working with government.”

Lord Ashcroft Says Unexplained Wealth Act is Tool against Corruption

Ashcroft points out there are other tools and regulations that G.O.B. can adopt to reduce corruption.  One of the measures refers to the “Unexplained Wealth Law” or “wealth order” where if probes show that someone’s total wealth exceeds their lawfully obtained wealth, he or she will have to explain how they achieved that wealth.  Using this legal recourse, authorities can confiscate the proceeds of crime and or corruption.

Lord Michael Ashcroft

“United Kingdom in 2017 passed this piece of legislation which I will describe and I believe Trinidad has just passed it which is if somebody demonstrably has assets, the known income doesn’t substantiate why they have those assets but if they are served an order and if they cannot explain the source of their wealth the state confiscates those assets. So, it depends how serious a country wants to be in remedying some of the problems in the nation that go back a long time and have been built up a long time.”

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