180 degree turn for social partners on UHS Print
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Thursday, 07 December 2017 00:00

The Chamber of Commerce, the BNTU and the NTUCB have taken an about turn on the issue of the secretly guaranteed Universal Health Services Debt which in 2007 stood at 33 million dollars and has now ballooned to 90 plus million dollars and counting.

The Chamber of Commerce was first to issue a press release in which it stated that the entire deal was a ‘debt of honor.’ Following closely was the NTUCB who in a release also stated that the debt was actually one that needed to be paid, albeit, “in installments.” Even the President of the BNTU, Elena Smith has publicly stated that the debt should be paid!

But how is it that these organizations could have taken this position. After all everyone can remember or can pull up the archives and see that these three organizations were at the forefront of the opposition to Belize guaranteeing the loan for the principals of UHS. These social partners were there at the foot of the national assembly back in May of 2007 when all hell broke loose in the Nation’s Capital as Said Musa tried to get approval for the government to have the loan guaranteed. At the time the unions, not least among them, the BNTU braved the police department and loudly chanted that they would not accept that the government guarantee a private loan.

And then there was the Chamber of Commerce who, while not publicly demonstrating, did so with great rhetoric that the people’s money should not be used to guarantee a public debt.

But more than public opposition, the NTUCB and the Chamber through its then president and the Association of Concerned Belizeans, took more than a stand on the issue, they took the matter to court. There they challenged the legality of Said Musa actions, who despite public opposition, secretly gave the guarantee for the principals of the UHS for the 33 million dollar loan. The Supreme Court ruled that in fact what he had done was illegal and so too did the Court of Appeal.

What has taken place at the Caribbean Court of Justice is now a matter of public record, they deemed that Musa did not do anything illegal but pointed out that the paying of public finances of this type needs parliamentary approval. Now there is a vote that needs to take place for the approval of the loan.

And while we await as the House is called to answer the question, at this point in time the Belizean public is wondering how it is that the Chamber, the BNTU and the NTUCB have had a change of heart? The reality of the matter is that nobody knows. How is it that an organization that represents people and is always clamoring for transparency can now endorse the payment of a debt that from the onset was fraught with, if nothing else irregularities and went squarely against the public good. Then you have the chamber who, must be guided by solid business principles, can now agree that the debt is paid despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing to show for it. This goes against any and all business principles of investment.

And while these two organizations have a right to their opinion, we must ask, how much consultation did they do within their membership to have come up with their position? We must also ask for them to pray tell us, where will the money to make the payment come from? Should salaries for public officers be frozen? Should taxes on the business sector be increased in order to satisfy a debt which we have nothing to show for?