Opponents of the Barrow administration did an excellent job of painting the last Government as anti-business. They based such propaganda on episodes of Government’s public battle with the Ashcroft Alliance and the subsequent takeover of two utility companies. It also didn’t help the administration that businesses locally began to feel the full impact of the global economic crisis during Prime Minister Barrow’s first term. However, non-politically affiliated businessmen will concede that considering the amount of tax breaks introduced by the administration, and the impact of the infrastructural stimulus, this administration has been the most business - friendly in Belize’s history. The administration now plans to continue building on a much improved direct relationship with the private sector by immediately implementing policies that will foster an environment for businesses to succeed. That means looking beyond tax breaks and policy reform and towards the environment in which the businesses exist.
The success of the business community is dependent on the social advancement of the society in which it dwells. Belize is ranked 123 out of 142 countries on the 2012 Global Competitiveness Index Report. This is an extremely poor position to be in however, considering the fact that Belize didn’t even rank in previous surveys, the country is definitely on the right track. The poor rating is due in large part to our technology readiness. Belize’s Internet penetration of 10% is lowest in the region and the cost of technology is highest. Improving these statistics is of paramount importance to the 2012-2017 Barrow Administration. That is the reason Prime Minister Barrow appointed the country’s first Minister of Science and Technology, Senator Joy Grant. Improved accessible technology will immediately improve the business climate of Belize. Since October 2010, Internet costs in Belize have been reduced significantly. At its lowest speed, 128 kb, cost of internet was above $100 per month. Today, it is below $50 and on December 1st, it will be at $25. The reduction is even more incredible at faster speeds. The cost of 1 MB speed internet was $500 in 2010. Today, it is $300 and on December 1st, it will be $140. Prime Minister Barrow announced the price changes at the second annual business forum between the private and public sectors. Private sector representatives greeted the news with a huge round of applause.
Combined with the reduction in electricity and water rates, lower Internet and telephone rates have made it far cheaper to operate and expand businesses in Belize. However, Government’s goal is to not just to reduce cost of business operations. Government’s goal is to improve the overall business climate. That means making the technology available to a wider market. That is the responsibility of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Dr. Colin Young is the Chief Executive Officer in that Ministry. He understands the challenge before the new Ministry. Young explained, “Over 100 villages in the country do not have the infrastructure for proper Information and Communication Technology and 43 communities don’t even have power.” To take full advantage of the technology available in Belize, there needs to be more investment in technological infrastructure.
Belize Telemedia Limited’s investment in infrastructure for its new 4G system has made it possible for the lowering of rates and increase in Internet speed. Because of its massive investment in infrastructure and huge expansion in customer base, the company was able to secure a more favourable agreement with its service providers. The savings that will be experienced as a result is being passed on to the majority share holders of the company, the Belizean people. While BTL has readied itself for expansion, the country’s other utility companies are doing the same. According to Prime Minister Barrow, “the three public utilities will together deploy capital investments of over 100 million in 2012/2013.” Government’s goal is to reduce the number of villages without infrastructure for ICT and the number of communities without power to zero.