[saymaListserv] The Troubles in Belize: What's Going On There?

Janet Minshall jhminshall at comcast.net
Sat Apr 30 15:36:38 JEST 2005


Dear Friends, This is a followup to my cryptic 
message a few days ago to please hold our Friend 
Judy Lumb, and Belize, Central America, in the 
Light of the Holy Spirit.  Janet Minshall


Belize
Incommunicado
Apr 28th 2005
From The Economist print edition
Why they pulled the plug on a misgoverned country

FOR much of the past fortnight, Belize, a small 
English-speaking country in Central America, was 
technophobe heaven. Phones, internet and cash 
machines stopped working for days and power was 
briefly cut after staff at BTL, the telephone 
company, were locked out. The prime minister, 
Said Musa, blamed saboteurs. The trade unions 
blamed Mr Musa, and told him to resign. As 
looters smashed shops in Belize City, a man was 
killed, 27 were injured and 100 arrested. The 
teachers' and civil-service unions called 
strikes. Fortunately for Mr Musa, most of their 
members preferred not to miss payday.

Phones were more or less working again this week. 
But the respite may be brief. Belize is 
struggling with a public debt as big as its GDP. 
Much of it falls due this year. The country's 
credit rating has plunged, so new borrowing is 
onerous. After earlier strikes, the government 
backtracked on austerity measures. Most Belizeans 
are not keen to make sacrifices; they believe 
that Mr Musa has landed the country in its 
present mess. An inquiry into the Social Security 
Board heard of public money lent unwisely to 
well-connected businessmen.

The biggest problem is the phone company. Lord 
Ashcroft, an Anglo-Belizean who was once 
treasurer of Britain's Conservative Party, owned 
a majority of its shares until 2003. After 
sniping over regulation, the government bought 
him out. It hoped to sell his shares to 
Innovative Communication, a company based in the 
US Virgin Islands. The two are now in dispute. 
This month, a Miami judge slapped a $50,000 a day 
contempt judgment on Belize-big money for a 
country whose government's total revenue is less 
than $800,000 a day. Perhaps Mr Musa might prefer 
it if his people cannot talk to each other.

Copyright  2005 The Economist Newspaper and The 
Economist Group. All rights reserved.
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