The House of Representatives met at the National Assembly in Belmopan today for a Special Sitting of the House. The Electricity Acquisition Settlement Act, 2015 was the item debated today at that Assembly.
The act seeks to facilitate the implementation of the terms of a Deed of Settlement and Compromise between the Government and the Fortis companies. This is after Government took over Fortis’ BEL shares in 2011. The Prime Minister opened the debate by saying that this settlement is final vindication of government’s philosophy and position on the nationalization of utilities in the country for the benefit of Belizeans.
Hon: Dean Barrow: Despite what the critics and the naysayers had to say at the time, here it is that we’ve, as I indicated completed the circle, and are today about the business of passing an act which will see the challenge of Fortis, the company from which we acquired the shares, withdraw its CCJ challenge with is questioning of the legitimacy of the acquisition, and confirm and underline, as is mandated by the constitution of this country. Confirm and underline that now and forever more, BEL in the majority will belong to the people and government of Belize.
Government paid $70 million dollars to Fortis and gave them back 33.3% percent of the 70% percent of shares that it had “stronged’ from Fortis in 2011.. And while those are the figures the government presented those in the opposition said the 33.3% shares may be worth upwards of $110 million dollars and that Fortis’ sweet deal will be worth more than that in the years to come what all the tax exemptions that the Government agreed to.
Hon. Francis Fonseca: Add to this the full exemption from all stamp duty on the shear transfer. The shear transfer of 63 Million Dollars would attract duty of 5%, or 3.3 Million Dollars given away by the government. Government has also waived the 1.25% stamp duty on the exchange control permit for the US35 Million Dollars which amounts to 790,000 Dollars, and all future dividends Mr. Speaker, paid in Belize dollars will be converted to US Dollars and repatriated to Canada. All the permits will be exempt similarly. More than that, all future dividends paid by BEL to Fortis, all future dividends paid by BEL to Fortis will be exempt from income tax of 25%. This will amount to millions of dollars over time Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Said Musa: Also agreed to every conceivable tax exemption to be granted to Fortis international. Indeed not only to Fortis, but to anybody that may buy the shares from Fortis, any transferee of Fortis of that 33% will enjoy the very same total, absolute full exemption, stamp duty, income tax, business tax, exchange control fees, every conceivable, every fee you can imagine, every impost you can imagine Mr. Speaker is being granted to Fortis. They will not pay a cent.
Representative for Cayo South Julius Espat made note that BECOL is a Fortis owned company which sets a dangerous precedence considering the sweet tax exempt deal the Government has granted to Fortis.
Hon. Julius Espat: That after this agreement is signed, Fortis can now transfer their shares to BECOL. You have to understand that BECOL is this mega monster. It has nothing, what you are talking about and what we are talking about here in 70 Million and 150 Million, it’s insignificant to the amount of money that BECOL generates and what they represent. Mr. Speaker we buy 60% of our power from BECOL and just by them having this exemption on taxes alone, you are talking that the Belizean people will be deprived of 100’s and 100’s of millions of dollars, and that is why Fortis and their attorneys agreed to the Prime Minister’s presentation. It is not because they love him, it is because they have fooled him, it is because he is in bed with the agreement so that he and his brothers can make money from the settlement and Fortis takes home 100’s and 100’s and 100’s of millions of dollars.
On the second round of the debate, the Prime Minister lashed back.
Hon. Dean Barrow: This is before the courts, this is by way of a settlement, this is by way of compensation. Compensation does not attract taxes fools! And they said, again the transfer of the shares to Fortis, no stamp duty is being paid. Man if you give back the people they something they mi had, how on earth would stamp duty arise? And even if it arose, da government the transfer, government a charge itself stamp duty? I mean, it really is nonsense placed upon stilts.
Government’s final acquisition of 37% of the shares coupled with the Social Security Board shares and other independent shares make up the Belizean owned shares of 67% percent.