Thursday, August 27, 2009


** Ray Auxillou photo in 2009


Interviewer: Mr. Auxillou, we understand you are being forced by the Government to close your small Tourist Business? Would you care to comment?

Mr. Auxillou: That’s true! We got fined a $100 for violation supposedly for not filling out the monthly reporting forms properly by the Belize Tourist Board..

Interviewer: Were you guilty?

Mr. Auxillou: Probably? But I don’t know the specific rational being used? It wasn't explained.

Interviewer: So why close down over a $100 FINE?

Mr. Auxillou: The first FINE is indicative of a trend, a certain bureaucratic mind set, that will get worse and personally expensive over TIME. Business has to be measured in a RISK to REWARD ratio. We would expect now fines are being allocated, that in the normal flow of such things, as the Government becomes more and more cash strapped and overburdened in debt, that FINES will get bigger and more often. We think we are being warned of this trend with the first $100 FINE, is cheap notice to quit, before we get whapped with $10,000 FINES, or more. I know people who have had that happen! Plus recently in the newspapers there have been advertisements warning of half a million dollar FINES for possession of a $5 Guatemalan cell phone card by people who have family who live in both countries in the border town. We’ve been here before, back in the early 1980’s when we got forced out of the tourist business by the then Income Tax department with wildly inflated TAX ASSESSMENTS and this is a repeat. The practice of FINING will escalate and become ruinous is our extrapolation. Better to cut it off right now at the beginning. The CABINET of the day eventually corrected the Income Tax predatory persecutions with a change in the laws about the income tax abuses in past decades. It was much too late to help us back then. I expect the result will be similar here eventually, but we can’t wait around to see. We don’t know the dynamics within the Belize Tourist Board, or the Government of Belize for that matter, so we cannot know the circumstances behind it. I can guess that there are a number of situations arising to this, but do not really know? Nor do I care. The trend just means that once a government institutional department targets a small business in a predatory and persecutive manner, the situation will get more intense eventually and ultimately more expensive. Down the road we can only expect bigger FINES and more of them. Better to cut it off right now and go out of business. Our tourist business is, or was, a small family HOME BUSINESS, which means we provide a service, broaden the offerings for competitive world market share nationally in advertising, but we are no GIANT billionaire like Michael Ashcroft who just got his telecommunications shares NATIONALIZED. Our business is marginal in returns and most of the rewards are not profits, but intangible benefits, like being able to pay the monthly electrical and water bill. Nobody in the family gets a salary for instance, the most we expect is to build the country in a patriotic sense and do our part to advertise the tourist sights and benefits in competition with the rest of the world. We feel personally we are helping guide new generations of youngsters in developing Belize. Giving them examples to learn from. What we are afraid of is bigger FINES in the future and more of them. The business doesn't warrant a personal bankruptcy, over some clerical abuse of power.

Interviewer: Do you feel this is a political attack?

Mr. Auxillou: Not at all! My feeling this is from somebody STUPID in the Belize Tourist Board apparatus. I couldn't read the signature but it was headed Registrar of Hotels, whoever that might be?

Interviewer: Why not just pay the FINE and correct the reporting errors and go on as usual.

Mr. Auxillou: It doesn’t work that way in practice. When you are targeted by somebody in the government apparatus for predatory persecution, you are going to be made to suffer. This is a small country and thousands of government jobs are filled by POLITICAL PARTY HACKS, or NEPOTISTIC practices. There is no civil service EXAM done anonymously to fill government positions, for instance. Government jobs are in large part assigned on a basis of family relationships, or political party affiliation. The country is run to enrich people who run for political office and their relatives and friends. A typical practice in most small countries. This doesn’t lend itself to good government practices. We’ve had a running beef with the Belize Tourist Board about their HOTEL monthly reporting forms for three years, I believe? We ran a HOSTEL, which rents only beds, to backpacker travelers, in dormitories. The BTB forms are geared to big business HOTELS that rent rooms. Hostels and Hotels are different animals, a lot of the requirements on the BTB form, do not lend itself to clarity in our bed rental situation. I can’t figure them out, or how to apply them. Some past BTB courteous personnel have explained makeshift patches to use for our situation on these forms, but when we go several weeks without any customers, I tend to forget the explanation and besides they change BTB staff frequently and what is agreed with one person, no longer agrees with the next one. We carefully reviewed the listed complaints for the FINE. It is an impossible situation. If they want to use the regulations to go after you and FINE you, they can, no matter what I did. We just muddled along doing the best we can with an inappropriate set of reporting requirements, to account for tax collections.

Interviewer: So why the FINE now, if you have been muddling along with inappropriate forms for three years?

Mr. Auxillou: You are asking me to speculate! I have no idea? If I speculated I could come up with some guess work.

Interviewer: What would be your speculations?

Mr. Auxillou: a) Well recently we might have embarrassed the head of BTB, with a request for information on their advertising campaign on our debating listserve, by asking for a news release on their plans for a FALL advertising campaign for major newspaper advertising in Guatemala City, Salvador and San Pedro Sula for enhancing for our regional tourism flow, during our annual FALL, DEAD TOURIST season. Local regional tourism is an untapped market in Belize, though BIG BUSINESS over the border. The internal tourism of Guatemala is growing by leaps and bounds, with their 12 million people and new paved highways all over the place. We kind of would like to tap that here in Belize. Somebody on the debating listserve asked me if I really expected BTB to respond? I said no, but I thought we might prompt them, obliquely and politely into thinking about it? This might be a personal vendetta to teach me a lesson? There are over 500 private airplanes in Guatemala City for instance and a lot of those fly every weekend to the Rio Dulce airport, a growing tourist area, just South of Belize, a few miles. We had been thinking of adding another HOSTEL in that location, in a long range plan for a Hostel Chain. Bus service and the road system throughout Central America these days is superb. When we get the Jalacte, Toledo highway route connection from Belize through the South, regional tourism is going to BOOM. People on our debating listserve in Belize, didn’t think our BTB people, even think in terms of regional tourism. They are more orientated to Belgium, Holland, London and New York.
b) Another guess might be their BTB tax revenues have fallen so much, they cannot cover their overhead operating costs and so are just out to SQUEEZE tourist businesses for more revenue through the application of FINES? I’ve been a middle level bureaucrat myself, so I understand with our laws, any intelligent civil servant can jiggle the rules, to JUSTIFY FINES and COVER YOUR ASS if trouble arose from doing so. I expect that will be the result here. Lots of rationalization and justifications and all sounding plausible. That’s why we closed down. It is a turf battle we cannot win, no matter what we do.
c) A much wilder guess is that trouble is looming for a year from now, in government finances when the SUPER BOND escalates. Government size on current tax revenues will obviously become unsustainable. Though we expect tourism to recover somewhat next winter season. A lot of political stuff will hit the air waves this time next year. I’m vocal and trying to contribute to building the nation. This might not sit well in some political circles who are sitting in the hot seat. Though this is a stretch of the imagination. Generally speaking I approve of this current government. I feel no animosity from them politically at all. Like others I’m just waiting to see how it all turns out? Quite frankly, I don’t have a clue for the BTB FINE? The BTB can legally justify it of course. As a previous administrator myself, I know that. What I don’t understand is the WHY? You don’t develop the nation, taking these sort of approaches to small business.

Interviewer: What are your plans now?

Mr. Auxillou: ( rueful grin! ) I honestly don’t know. The bank in the USA were we had our small savings recently went bankrupt and worried us financially for a month. That seems to have been worked out with the FIDC and the bank assets have been sold to another banking chain and our savings are apparently accessible again. We are looking to find a safer place to put our savings and thinking of Guatemala to diversify geographically for safety, that pays 7 ½ % interest on CD’s. It pays to diversify geographical location due to political and economic upsets. Right now, we are involved in shutting down the tourist operation. We have two European reservation Agents and wide European advertising in Backpacker guidebooks in different languages. Reservations keep trickling in, for as far away as next March and April in 2010. We have obligations, and right now I’m trying to shut everything down as fast as I can. We need to cut off the reservation booking flow, because deposits are being made in Europe, which is money we never see, but are obligated to fulfill. It’s a bollocks of a mess!
For the immediate future, we had one experimental entrepreneurial business we are still in the experimental stages of testing, we had hoped to run the new business, out of this same building facility, here in our section of Santa Elena Town, in parallel with our Hostel tourist business. We had been unable to get internet service here in our section of Santa Elena Town. BTL won’t run a wire out to this section of town, or wouldn’t before the recent Belize government takeover. Maybe things will change? We can’t wait more than a few weeks though, for something to change with internet service dynamics in Santa Elena Town. Things are coming to a head here, on a decision to go, or no go with this new business, which requires internet service. We’ve been unable to make it work using separate locations, like down in San Ignacio, two miles away. Now we are shutting the TOURIST HOSTEL section down, that changes the dynamics. Where we go from here is still up in the air. We are sort of reconsidering setting up the new business over the border, if we could buy a cheap house and take advantage of the better internet quality in speeds and bandwidth, at lower costs available a dozen miles a way from here, in Guatemala. We just returned from pricing real estate in the Guatemalan border town of Melchor de Menchos and prices are reasonable. We’ll explore that option over the next few weeks and discuss things. See if we can afford it? It is a heck of a step to take, just to get an internet connection. That is the closest entrepreneurial endeavor we currently have boiling on the stove. We’ve got some other entrepreneurial ideas, but they are not well developed yet in the research end. First thing, we had planned for September holidays and we are going to Guatemala to take a holiday down on Lake Izabel and in the Rio Dulce area. Plan to stay on our old Winnie Estelle, a boat which is retired currently from the tourist business in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye and tied up in a marina down there by the old Spanish fort, owned by a consortium of friends. We want to check out the tourism investment opportunities for a hostel also at the same time. After that, it is resolving this internet supply problem here, and what we can do about it? If we can do anything constructive about it? We were talking yesterday to the Real Estate people in San Ignacio about putting this building up for sale, to give us investment mobility and more choices. We are holding back on that decision for a while. Other entrepreneurial ideas are vague right now. We have some, but they are not well researched. One of the criteria for decision making is to avoid businesses that must deal with Belize government departments that are over regulated, in our opinion. We don’t want a repeat of this BTB type of trouble. That eliminates a lot of business making opportunities.

Interviewer: Thank you and good luck!

Mr. Auxillou: Thank you, your welcome!

No comments: