British Bulldogs Print E-mail
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Written by Jamil Matar   
Thursday, 20 December 2012 00:00

Several people have remarked that at last, there was something positive that spun off in the BTL debacle, which was the acquiescence of the CCJ on Wednesday to allow dividends to be distributed to the small shareholders of the telecommunications company. These 1,400 shareholders are “small fry” in this big fight, and they only invested to have a little something at the end of the year, yet still have their shares preserved for the future as the Belize market expands.

The general feeling in purchasing shares was that if BTL is later deemed to be the property of the British national, then all recent investments are to be refunded with a little interest. Sounded like win-win situation to the small investors; that is, until the British Bulldogs started barking again, and this time they went for the jugular: to halt all dividend distributions. There was a sense of anxiety for a while there, then calm after the last CCJ decision on Monday, December 17th. There would be little extra cash, after all, to buy something nice for Christmas.

But what will happen to BTL in the future? As a simple person, I don’t share the elevated optimism that I observe attorneys usually exude, on both sides of any argument, and I always feel that the side I support will ultimately lose. I don’t know if I read too much into things, and I may be totally wrong here with my pessimistic attitude; but as the Russians are fond of saying, a pessimist is actually an informed optimist.

The rulings and uttering that have come from the CCJ are not reassuring to the small investors; the Court has time and time again been cautious with this BTL issue, since I assume it has huge implications, not only for Belize, but for the entire Caribbean. Again I repeat: I share those opinions with you only because I have heard attorneys repeat it on the talk shows, and not because I am a “learned” person, as attorneys are usually referred to.

The thing is, if the previous PUP administration had not signed the Accommodation Agreement with the Billionaire for guaranteed profits, which allowed him to audaciously withhold GST from GOB to sustain this profit margins, our nation would not have had to expend so much time and resources in defending our national dignity. I am not saying we give up; I’m saying I hope we all appreciate what triggered this conflict.

On the other hand (there are always two of these), if I were the old chap, I would put haughtiness to one side, or better, vent it in another direction. I would sit and negotiate the best price for BTL, then use a large portion of that money and structure my other company, Smart, to BTL’s level or higher even, and see who offers the best service at the better rates. Belizeans have already seen what competition has done with Internet prices and speed and also with the double-up promotions. I tell you, it feels good to pay less for improved service. And as consumers, we want to enjoy more of that, and would lean towards the better service provider, if you get my drift. I leave you with that for now, and wish you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas.