Thursday, 25 June 2020
It is almost impossible to remember the days when BTL, for business purposes known as Belize Telemedia Limited but in reality controlled by the Prime Minister, was a proud, thriving entity, a stable source of employment for many Belizeans. Those were the days before Mr. Barrow decided to ‘strong’ the company, paving the way for his law firm and a multitude of family members and cronies to make millions. While those UDP functionaries got rich, they sucked the life from the company.
This week, BTL is asking, for the second time, for persons to go on voluntary retirement because the company is on life-support, and has been displaying death throes for some time. The former telecommunications giant, which the Prime Minister proudly claimed would be worth over a billion dollars in the next few years, was one of the first to introduce pay-cuts and mass layoff of staff as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the truth is that even before Covid reared its head, the company has been laying off staff.
Mr. Barrow is singlehandedly responsible for the demise of BTL. There are many political observers who claim that Barrow’s seizing of BTL was a carefully orchestrated plot to enrich his family members. And they say there is merit in that assertion. For more than eight years the Prime Minister engaged in costly rounds of litigation, telling Belizeans that he would never give in to the ‘white devil.’ BTL is for Belizeans, said Mr. Barrow, and he would fight to the proverbial death to defend the company which ‘we owned.’
It was a position that Barrow held on to while millions and millions of dollars were paid to select attorneys including the Prime Minister’s brother and ex-wife. Taxpayers were forced to watch helplessly as the Prime Minister took it a step further and placed his unqualified, unskilled son at the helm of the company. Anwar Barrow would go on to become a millionaire at BTL, even as the company haemorrhaged.
And bizarrely, after years of claiming on every podium that the fight for BTL was righteous and Belizeans would win, Mr. Barrow without a word, and without any consultation in the House of Representative, went to Miami where he met with the same ‘white devil’ and inked a deal which would cost Belizeans over half a BILLION dollars, for a company so wrecked by the Barrows’ control that it was not worth a fraction of that. But while Belizeans were out half a BILLION, Barrow ensured that his law partner was on hand for that unprecedented settlement. The Prime Minister has yet to reveal how much his law firm got from that deal.
Today, despite the Prime Minister convincing the Government of Taiwan and Atlantic Bank to provide multi-million dollar bailouts of BTL, the company continued to bleed out. Despite the Prime Minister casually writing off millions and millions in debt which BTL owed to GOB, the company continued going under, ravaged by greed and corruption and incompetence.
And to this day, no ‘normal’ Belizean has realized any of the benefits the Prime Minister spoke of. BTL is for us, he said, but we have never had any control over the decisions made. Mr. Barrow made BTL a political pawn and destroyed it, but not before the riches were reaped. It is another bit of legacy for which the Prime Minister will pay dearly.