Monday, August 24, 2009

TYPICAL CHALLENGES WHEN TRYING TO START A NEW BUSINESS IN BELIZE

*** Hughes home satellite internet connection system, 7000s.



TYPICAL CHALLENGES WHEN TRYING A START UP BUSINESS, IN PIONEER BELIZE

We thought by October this year ( 2009 ) we would be able to put the different pieces together to start an entrepreneurial FINANCIAL TRADING FLOOR in our location in Western Belize. We have our own building and office space, electricity, water and cable tv. What we mostly needed and lack is internet service and telephone service.
For those of you overseas contemplating investing in Belize, you might get a kick out of our travails in trying to do a start up business in a rural small pioneering country.
We’ve managed to do a work around, the lack of telephone service. We are located about a quarter mile from the Western Highway, along which there is copper line telephone service. Down on the flat lands of the TWIN TOWNS there is also HIGH SPEED INTERNET available by those old homes with copper wire telephone systems. We can get neither, a quarter mile away and while there is some talk of putting in a broadband internet system, it is still going to be centimeters long frequency wavelength like micro waves and if you cannot see the company, one tower antenna, you are not going to get a signal. Even though we are about half a mile from the tower, which currently does cell phones, which we also cannot receive; due to obstructions in the line of sight between us and the tower.
We resolved the telephone issue by not using, or planning on using the telephones ( which service we cannot get anyway ), but good fast reliable internet service we need. For our business proposition, we need affordable DSL. That however, is not available either, but if you are in the center of the TWIN TOWNS population cluster, pre-colonial area, where it is flat and you have a copper wire hooked up telephone, you can get HIGH SPEED INTERNET, which would be adequate for us, if we could get it. Not the best, but adequate. House and land prices are too high for us though to buy anything.
Unfortunately during trading strategy trials we are watching our CABLE TV for DOW reports on the television news stations coming out of the USA. The time differential for us is two hours. So our day starts at 7 a.m., which is 9 a.m. New York Time. The day ends at 3 p.m. our time, which is close of the New York Stock Exchange. For our business, we need a straight line into the Chicago Board of Trade Options Exchange. We could and had planned on doing that through the internet. So far we watch the CABLE TV in our office and the DOW numbers and act on that by extrapolating. ( making reasoned guesses ) The local cable TV company refused to supply us with USA CNBC and the ticker tape we need for various numbers, involved in trading USA markets. We do get POLISH, RUSSIAN, CHINESE and other ASIAN ticker tape data though, on the same cable company. Unfortunately none of these work for our chosen market which is CHICAGO, which relies on the New York Stock Exchange ticker tape data. When we get the moves we wish, extrapolated from the NEWS channel with their DOW number report, then we must hop on our pickup truck and hare off down into the center of the TWIN TOWNS, two miles away, and use a pay as you go, internet café. Takes about 20 to 35 minutes to do this over potholed rough gravel roads, find a free internet café computer and log onto the trading sites at the Chicago Board of Trade Options Exchange. We could in some trading strategies lose our whole investment, or at the least a few thousand dollars with the time lag here, but with some practice and experimentation, have managed to restrict ourselves to some trading strategies that are not quite so time sensitive, though they still are somewhat. Today, we got rudely shocked though, when the market signals shot up and peaked and in our strategy we should have sold and taken about $1200 profit on one half the strategy and entered a hedge. Unfortunately at that time of the morning, the market peak was over before our local internet café owner, had even finished breakfast and when we did get into the internet café, we even lost the down market move that would have netted us another $550 had we been able to communicate with Chicago traders via the internet. So our strategy set up from last week, got ruined and broken up. Obviously a Financial Center is not going to work this way. We either forget it, or somehow get internet service in our office here in the Hillview suburb. We are happy this is only experimental time and involves strategy method testing and paper trading and not real money. Our goal had been to open in October, but we already put back that date until January because of the difficulties involved.
We need internet service in our office building here in Hillview, Santa Elena Town. Since we can’t get it, from any ISP providers currently in Belize, then we looked at Satellite systems and for a while settled on HUGHES SATELLITE, the 7000s model from the advice of experts in the field. We managed to find a knowledgeable dealer in California and negotiated a rebuilt modem and activation fee, without a two year contract. Hardly want a two year service contract on an internet system, everybody tells us will not do the job we want anyway. Everybody tells us on internet forums that it will not work, due to lack of bandwidth and oversold customers. It was when we tried to ship it down here, we got into trouble on that. The freight shipping cost for the reflector dish is around $800 usa to Belize. 3 foot diameter light dish, which cardboard box is 4 ft by 4 ft x 4 ft, or shipping cubic volume of 64 cubic feet. Weighs about 15 lbs before the cardboard box. Plus you have to buy all the equipment, $300 worth. About 4 cardboard boxes in all. When we contacted a local freight importer, we were told we could not import the SATELLITE system, without a PERMIT from the Belize government PUC. The Public Utilities Commission. We have read articles in the newspapers, with pronouncements from the PUC in Belize and we have the latest telephone book, but cannot find a telephone number, or any office listed for any PUC. Probably they meet once a month someplace? Since the port town, where most of these political departments are located, and probably not in the capital Belmopan, ( much nearer to us here in the West ) but supposedly in the far away port, as far across the width of the country away from here, as to be impossible to reach. Nobody of course in government departments answer telephone calls anymore. Not sure if it is the malfunctioning telecommunications INTELCO government system, or public policy to not do government bureaucratic business by telephone, or not? At any rate, pretty much ALL GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS have endless busy telephone signals at any time of the business day.
It’s a two day trip, there and back, to the coastal port and a hotel overnight stopover, for someone my age, then there is no guarantee you would find anybody, if you actually knew there was such a government entity with an office and desk to go to. Far as we can find out there is no such office, or government entity, such as the PUC? At least nobody knows anything around the TWIN TOWNS in the Belize Alps foothills, when you ask. Everybody just guesses, but nobody knows for sure? Certainly they are not in the telephone book and even if they were, probably would not reply anyway? Taking a trip on a guess and by golly, so far away, is simply not practical. So without a PUC PERMIT, for which we do not even have the capability to find out how much it costs? That was kind of the straw that broke the camels back in this endeavor. Bureaucracies take weeks, if not months to take permit applications in Belize. We’ve been waiting a month and a half for a lands inspection, for example, to qualify to get a title, on a lease property the wife bought last year. Then she was told today, that it would be done later this week, as work was backlogged and after that it would be another 2 or 3 months before somebody in Lands Department in Belmopan would notify us of the fee cost for the land, from lease to TITLE processing. Then we could pay and apply and expect to get our title in a few more months, after that. ( add another six months and you are looking at a bit over a year to do something ordinary ) Here in Belize, any person in charge of a government department, is either on vacation, overseas on a course of training, or not in the office right now, or in a meeting, is the usual result when you go to a government bureaucratic office. Come back another day is the usual message you get. Another day you would get the same run-a-round anyway. Costs a lot of money and lost business time running around trying to see government bureaucrats in such a small dysfunctional governing system. I say that from experience. So, we are certainly not planning any exploratory long trips to the coastal port of Belize City, looking for an invisible mysterious PUC office? No permit, no shipping deal, so we gave up finally on the Hughes Satellite importation experiment.
These are the type of problems involved with trying to set up business in rural pioneer Belize. It isn’t easy at all and can take years to do anything legally. After our shocker of today in our trading strategy tests, we are looking later this week, to take a trip across the Guatemalan Border and price small houses, ( an hour away ) with the hope we can find something to buy within our budget, in which we can build an office and connect to the superior Guatemalan competitive internet systems in Melchor de Menchos. That seems the only choice left us, other than just give up the business idea altogether? Why live here then you might ask? We are old and retired and the medical system here is better and more affordable than the mess in the USA. We would be bankrupted in the USA and couldn’t even begin to afford to live and pay for medical insurance as well. That is just one reason, and the other is I love challenges anyway and Belize is certainly full of those. The basic motto is to survive and to do that, you need shelter ( we have that ), food ( we have that and cheap too ) and medical treatment available at our age ( we have that too here ). So Belize is not too bad, we can live on around $700 usa a month quite comfortably.

1 comment:

francob said...

I know I'm 2 months late on this but there is a PUC. It is a very common entity in Belize that controls all telecommunications in the country. A little googling would've brought you to their website: www.puc.bz.