REPORT #416 August 2001

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

From the Guardian on-line...

Glenn to sell ITL to . . . BTL???

Word on the street is that Glenn Godfrey's Provident Group is in negotiation to sell all or a portion of its telecommunications entity, International Telecommunications Limited (ITL) to BTL.

In his budget speech this year, Prime Minister Said Musa announced the signing of a contract with Godfrey's ITL and Korea's LG Electronics, which would give the group the right to install a wireless Internet network for use by government and educational institutions, supposedly in an attempt to lower government's telecommunications cost, increase access to technology by educational institutions, and to set the stage for meaningful competition to the BTL Monopoly. As a part of the arrangement, the Government of Belize made an advance payment of $4 Million to Godfrey, along with a guarantee of $20 Million for the entire project.

What seemed like another Fat Cat PUP deal with the possibility of some benefit to Belizeans turned out to be a Fat Cat deal with benefits only to one Fat Cat. PUP favourite, Glenn Godfrey, before making any meaningful attempts to commence the construction of the wireless Internet network, immediately began to market the project for sale to various entities, including the Mexican Telecomm Monopoly, TelMex.

BTL, in an attempt to salvage their monopoly at all costs, entered the bidding, and word is that they are very close to finalizing a deal for purchase of ITL from the Godfrey group. Word is also that the deal excludes Glenn's White Elephant EPZ project, Data Pro, but will include a provision that BTL supply Fibre Optic service to Data Pro. It is interesting to note that Data Pro has been unsuccessful in attracting tenants into its high rent facility due to the poor quality of telecommunications that is offered. In fact, Data Pro has lost several companies as a result of poor telecommunications services.

If one were to stop and think about how this deal is playing out, one would quickly realize that who is being played is the Belizean people. Taxpayers have been played right into another PUP Fat Cat deal, which, in the end, results in nothing more than a windfall for Godfrey and his silent partners.

Prior to the entry of ITL on the scene, BTL enjoyed its comfortable monopoly with the Government being its largest customer. Following the issuance of a Government Guarantee for $20 Million, Government prepayment of $4 Million dollars, as well as un-mentioned concessions to ITL, the company rose from nothing to an entity that was worthy of sale, mainly because it was granted a large part of BTL's market as a bonus.

In the end, BTL ends up with what it had before, plus an extension of its monopoly for at least a portion of its business. ITL/Godfrey ends up with $4 Million in cash plus the proceeds of the sale to BTL. And the Belizean people end up with no reductions in telecommunications costs, no alternative to BTL, out of pocket $4 Million dollars, plus the liability for a Government Guarantee of $20 Million, which forms a part of our over 1 Billion Dollar foreign Debt. As usual we end up holding the bag while PUPs get richer.

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