Belize signs UN Convention against Corruption

December 9th, 2016

As the world observed International Anti-Corruption Day, the Government of Belize signed the United Nation’s Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).

Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber officially signed the UNCAC treaty on December 9, 2016, so Belize became the 184th country to sign this convention.

After discovering an array of scandals within the Government, the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), along with citizens of this country and other organizations demanded action from the government. Officials from the Government of Belize and members of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, signed the treaty making the jurisdiction a signatory of the UNCAC.

At the signing ceremony, Faber said expressed his pleasure to make Belize a signatory of the Convention that this will aid in championing the issues of corruption in Belize. He added that it is only one step forward in the development of Belize and that the government is glad to be a part of a global effort in fighting against corruption and fostering the development of countries and their people. The signing reveals the start of the development of the framework for the upcoming work plan of the Government under the Convention.

In his address, Volkmann said, “I can assure you and the people of Belize that the UN, particularly UNODC and UNDP, we are ready to help Belize on its way to bring in the experience from other countries, to bring in the technical expertise this is needed to move forward on a way that in fact is a task of the Belizean government, the Belizean society, to find the right ways to end corruption and be more transparent.”

Prime Minister Barrow signed an Instrument of Accession submitted to the UN Secretary General after the Senate ratified the notion on November 30, 2016.

The UN Convention focuses on 5 main aspects:

– Preventive Measures;
– Criminalization and Law Enforcement;
– International Cooperation;
– Asset Recovery;
– Technical Assistance and Information Exchange.

It also consists of 71 Articles, divided into 8 Chapters. The Convention details anti-corruption measures that signatories are required to implement within their laws and institutions. These measures aim at preventing corruption, including domestic and foreign bribery, embezzlement, trading in influence and money laundering.

Belizean Government to restructure Superbond to avoid Economic default

November 21st, 2016

In order to avoid a chaotic default early in 2017, the Government of Belize is urgently trying to restructure its billion-dollar debt arrangement, a Superbond that expires on 2038.

A team consisting of Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Right Honorable Dean Barrow, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, and Economic Ambassador Mark Espat travelled to New York City, USA, to meet with the Government’s legal and financial advisors. From November 7 to November 12t, the group met with key personnel from Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton LLP, to work on a new round of negotiations to ease payments on the debt.

The Belizean Government urged bondholders to form a creditor committee before the end of November so as to agree to a restructuring of the debt. This amendment on the Bond, sought the reduction of Belize’s public debt expense through lower interest rates. Another suggestion tabled to the advisors was the possibility of extending the life of the Superbond beyond the expiration date of 2038.

Despite the fact that the jurisdiction is experiencing serious financial difficulties, it must meet external debt payments. The next payment to the Superbond is due on February 2017, so it is hoped that a restructuring happens as soon as possible in order to secure this guarantee.

According to Prime Minister Barrow, the meetings in the USA were preparatory before notifying bondholders and the public what it is expected of the restructuring.

Another cause for concern is Belize’s 2:1 exchange rate peg with the US dollar being affected. The Central Bank of Belize announced a couple weeks ago that the country’s foreign reserves were currently around USD 315 million. The international benchmark for exchange rate sustainability requires Belize to keep its foreign reserves at USD 300 million and above. Falling below this benchmark will result in the Belize dollar being devaluated.

Impressive tourism arrivals figures again

October 13th, 2016

For 15 consecutive months from June 2015 to September 2016, the Tourism Industry of Belize has been experiencing record-breaking increases in overnight arrivals every month, with impressive double-digit increases of 33% growth.

It is now 9 months through 2016 and the tourism arrival figures continue to show this upward trend. The 3rd quarter is closing off with an incredible 26.9% increase for the month September 2016 over September 2015. Overall, the 1st 9 months of 2016 recorded a total of 293,622 overnight arrivals, a 16.4% increase over the same 9 months of 2015, which had 252,329 overnight arrivals.

Cruise arrivals were 54,569 passengers for September 2016, representing a 20.6% increase over September 2015. Overall, Cruise passenger arrivals recorded a moderate 1.3% increase for the 1st 9 months of 2016, despite having 12 fewer cruise vessels arriving in Belize, including cruise calls cancelled due to Hurricane Earl.

The largest market for Belize tourism is again the United States with 67.4% of the market share. The US is followed by Europe and Canada, respectively.

Destination Belize magazine unveiled

October 5th, 2016

Released on October 4, 2016, Destination Belize marks the first publication of the iconic magazine since 2014. The magazine is titled Travel Curious.

This is the official marketing magazine of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA). The publication was successfully redesigned and re-branded through the efforts of McNab Publishing Ltd., the Belize Tourism Board and other tourism industry stakeholders.

The magazine will be distributed at the various points of entry to the country, as well as to BTIA members and tourism stakeholders.