REPORT ##248 May 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

Since the Belmopan government has been in bed with the BTL monopoly for many years ( over 20 years ) for the profits and dividends, it comes as a surprise to everybody that the Prime Minister would publicly lash out at the Telecommunication Monopoly in the nation of Belize.

It is even a wonder that he waited 18 months of this term to do so. But, better late than never! Political development realities in Belize are usually 20 to 30 years behind the times.

What prompted this current diatribe against BTL we wonder? Speculation has it, that the Prime Minister has turned technocrat and wants Belize to become computerized to every remote house and village. In that respect, he is pushing hard for infra-structure like roads, safe filtered water ( cholera problem from contaminated rivers in many areas ) and electricity to remote communities. It hasn't been done yet. It should have been finished 15 to 20 years ago, but still, there is a current push on for improvement. To his credit, the current Prime Minister Said Musa is trying to coerce, push and cajole a reluctant civil service bureaucracy into change. He is meeting resistance every step of the way. Even within his own PUP political party. But that is what he got elected for and that is why he gets paid. Change the system and improve things, or get booted out in the next election! These five PUP years are the crisis years for Belize. It is going to be new political parties forming to compete for change, or revolution, say many of the young people. They want results, not hot air rhetoric. The only other alternative is an old one, the best minds will migrate and vote with their feet abroad.

The Belize Telecommunications Monopoly is a sovereign state within a sovereign state. They have the right to terminate anybody's telephone and retain a battery of lawyers on call to intimidate, threaten and prosecute anybody that goes against their profit first philosphy. Profits are rumored to be running 50% to 100% a year, because they will not expand service to any place that does not have what they call "IMMEDIATE PROFIT POTENTIAL".

Theoretically, BTL should never have had a monopoly on the internet ISP business. This type of business works through the telephone service but is outside and independent of telecommunications. It is a separate business. But in Belize with the sovereign nature of the BTL contract, anyone who threatened to sue them in court, or go against them in a public forum, could look for repercussions in loss of telephone service, without any due recourse to the courts. It's in their contract, they can deny you a telephone without explanation. They are sovereign, beyond the elected government in Belmopan. The individual could not compete in the courts financially. All the cards were held by BTL. So they co-opted and stole the Internet ISP business as part of their monopoly after the development fact. In some other countries in the Caribbean, this did not happen, or was challenged in the courts and competitive public ISP services offered.

In Belize, internet computer operators looked for protection from the Government in Belmopan. The government had both the legal and financial means to level the playing field and get a court ruling, or create legislation protecting competition in the ISP business. The government failed to do it! As a partner and stockholder with BTL this was regarded simply as shortsighted politics from a bunch of amateurs in the controlling parties, from the backward monarchist favoring ex-slave Jamaican Creole mentality found in the port town of Belize City that rules the nation of Belize under antiquated colonial imperialist population centered political representation.

So, it comes as a great big pleasant surprise to hear Prime Minister Said Musa from the port town, lash out at the monopoly BTL. He says, he wants telephone service to every home in the country and in every village. He wants the nation of Belize wired like Singapore, and the advantages of business, and education to be available to every citizen. The BTL monopoly has two more years or so to go. It is unlikely they will do more than make token moves in response to the tirade of the Prime Minister. To get anywhere he is going to have to turn to legislation. If he and the PUP party are sincere about having telephones nationwide and in all the schools for computers, then we are going to see some corrective legislation somewhere soon. Without which, nothing much will change. That is the hole card, the power behind the sovereignty of a nation. To change legislation. It can supersede that of a sovereignty monopoly contract if done right.

Is the Prime Minister sincere in his lashing out at BTL? Now there is a real question, the outcome of which is in serious doubt. The Prime Minister is known as a hard worker, a splendid administrator, excellent at foreign affairs, but also a wily, devious schemer. Would we call him a liar? You be the judge! Remember how he outfoxed his opponent in the PUP party elections for Party Leader? With the signs and stuff and disclaimed any involvment with same. Remember how he intimated and vaguely promised in the manifesto and speeches for the Referendum Act and did comply technically with the Act itself, but GUTTED it like a fish of any meaningful citizen petitions. Remember the Political Reform Committee, using a stacked deck of townies to get possibly results pre-ordained because of their personality profiles. It wasn't the Political Reform the country of Belize needs, but just tweaking of the current colonial system.

I wouldn't claim the Prime Minister is a liar. But then, I think you have to listen to his words carefully. Very carefully! Don't impose what you want to believe will happen on his wordings. You probably will be disappointed.

Do I believe he is sincere in scolding BTL and wanting computers and telephones in every home and village? Basically yes! He knows that development can only come from building infra-structure. The PUP party are going out on a limb with debts for the nation, hoping to get development off the ground through building some infra-structure. But there is also a lot of impractical nonsense going on catering to the votes of the major population center, the port Belize City, where under our system the political power currently lies. These impractical things are a bit like cutting the branch of the tree behind you. He and the PUP may just find they have made a fatal mistake. Can he catch the mistakes in time? Probably! If anything, our Prime Minister is talented, but like anyone, has to cater to where the votes are, in the port Belize City. The two things such as his intelligence and talent and where the votes are, may be incompatible with his public goals and desires.

It was a beautiful moment in Belizean history, to hear the Prime Minister scold BTL! One to remember when all the hopes are dashed and things return to the status quo. My advice, wait and see! Action not words are what to make a judgement by.

You want to really see things change, why contact me as a consultant, I'll write you some legislative changes that will make a new era of governing and development in Belize. Most of these things are already on the Development Issues of the Belize Electronic Library. Help yourself, it's FREE there! Our compliments!

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