Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Foreign Corporate investment education in Belize.


( A tale of how Belizeans are getting educated in the outside real business world )

These two men, slightly different, came to Belize at a time, when the small population of this small country were floundering around, with little knowledge of the outside world. You could describe our bureaucrats and politicians as na├»ve country bumpkins. We were back then ( a few decades ) and still are; provincials. Education has picked up in the past decade and we know a lot more today than we did back then. We have gone from a country that did not have a single person in government with a Bachelors Degree, to now having quite a few people with Masters, and Ph´ds. We are still provincial though, when it comes to international corporations. The local people are easy going, friendly and tend to believe, self serving propaganda spouted by representatives of Foreign International Corporations and also BANKS, like the World Bank and the IMF, and you can easily put some scheme over on us. After all, scattered over our 6000 square miles of sovereignty, we have only 313,000 people. There are not too many worldly people here and we tend to look for the best in people we deal with. Most deals are done on a handshake, as in a man is as good as his word.
What we learned from these two Foreign Investors is how International people look at our small country of Belize. They are literally SHARKS and we Belizeans are the minnows, or sprat to feed off. Stanley Marshall and his FORTIS corporation was an expert from Canada. Belizeans tend to look at Canadians as being straight forward and honest. World wide Canada has a good reputation. His expertise was in electricity distribution systems and such. Michael Ashcroft spent some years of his childhood in British Honduras and said the right words and complimentary phrases and we took him into our homes and hearts as one of us. BIG MISTAKE! His interest was in Telecommunications. Both utilities a necessity in a small country trying to break out of a developed nation status. We for the most part lacked both management expertise and even where to find the equipment and finance needed to do what the small country needed in these two fields of infra-structure building.
Business Is different, ask any Mexican, or Colombian Mafioso drug smuggler coming intransit through Belize. Business is not friendly at the international level. It is cutthroat and no personal feelings intended, but you pay, or die. Your body is their security.
Fortis helped us put in three hydro dams, and otherwise build a transmission grid. From Stanley we learned how this works at the expense of the Belizeans themselves. The same literally can be said of Michael Ashcroft, who took over a small colonial telephone company and gradually expanded it with population growth and other government town building ventures, but ALWAYS we have learned at our own expense.
These two men have taught us valuable lessons in dealing with the larger outside world. First off, nobody out there will invest in Belize, any more than they have to, in order to get control of the BOARD OF DIRECTORS of the utility company. Secondly we learned they want a MONOPOLY, so they control the situation in the country. Third, once you get control of the BOARD OF DIRECTORS and have a monopoly. ALL MONEY EARNED BY THAT UTILITY COMPANY CAN ONLY GO IN ONE DIRECTION. It must go from the citizens of the country, utility customers and government subsidies if necessary, outward into the pocket of any Foreign International Investor. No further investment with cash from their pockets will go into the country. That is the basic RULE! If the utility needs investment, it must either come from the government and or can be located as LOANS from offshore financial shell companies, owned usually by the same foreign principals. What the modes of action are, is that the controlling shares of the company owner, will authorize a loan, if GUARANTEED by our government, and at homongous interest. What we found was, that the foreign investing corporation, lent money to itself, for the investment needed, rather than issue more shares and buy them. Loans have to be paid back, but share capital does not. So there are triple or more whammeys here, as expansion is needed in infra-structure in the utility companies. You get loan fees, loan interest, management fees and a host of add on charges. All these things must be paid back by the customers through increasing the rates of the utility. There is no cash reserve. Each year any profits are sucked out of the country to go abroad as dividends and other fees. The customer must pay for the expansion of the infra structure, instead of doing it out of cash reserves and that payment is done by increasing customer rates. No matter what happens, the RULE stands. Money goes out of Belize! Money as investment in buying of shares, does not come into Belize. You don´t get to be BILLIONAIRES by doing long term investments in small underdeveloped countries. You exploit them by MINIMUM SERVICES and MAXIMUM PRICING. The citizens and their government MUST PAY.
So the question now is; do we need these OFFSHORE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATIONS to manage our utilities anymore? Have we grown up enough, to be self sufficient now? Our talent pool is still small, but I think we can stand on our own two feet today and we better learn to, because we will not develop our country the way we desire, if we do not.

1 comment:

Woody said...

Congrats on a very true and correct analogy of most foreign investors, we Belizeans should learn from these people and improve our "game plan" for the future. Then there is the other side of the coin of which should also take a lesson and embrace and build on, that of our own local entrepreneur,investor who believed in our country and gave it his all. Sir Barry Bowen. yes he made money, yes he had a beer monopoly, and yes he put all he had back into this country, to build it and develop it as we all should do. like him or not we have to admire what he stood for and that was Belize.