Caribbean Export Development Agency launched project on IP awareness

May 29th, 2014

The Caribbean Export Development Agency has launched a series of private sector IP clinics across the region. The first session of this initiative in the sphere of intellectual property took place in Belize from April 29-30, three more are to follow in the next months. The events of these days include case studies from local markets as well as presentations from local experts from tertiary institutions, law firms and IP offices.

The IP clinics are part of the project initiated through a workshop hosted by the Agency in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organisation in 2013, and named entitled “The Use of Intellectual Property as a Tool for Business/Export Enhancement.” At the national level, this
Project faces the issues of protecting the intellectual property assets, including trademarks, brands, etc.

It was stated by the representative from BELTRAIDE that “the initiative provided the capacity developments necessary for the business support organizations in Belize such as BELIPO, BELTRAIDE, and the Directorate of Foreign Trade to continue to provide support and technical services to enterprises in Belize through the new IP Task Force.”

The Intellectual Property clinics have the purpose to illustrate how IP can be used to enhance the businesses, and inform about the ways of IP protection. Special attention is paid at trademarks and branding, protection and licensing of trade secrets, franchising and IP mechanisms useful for the optimization of business operations and enhancement of export opportunities. Also, they aim to provide Caribbean Export Agency with information on the issues faced by businesses in the region to protect their IP rights.

Consultation of Belize jurisdiction concluded by IMF team leader

May 12th, 2014

On April 28 – May 9 the team of International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Belize jurisdiction, with the purpose to hold discussions in the context of Belize’s 2014 Article IV Consultation mission. The IMF team, led by Jacques Bouhga-Hagbe, met with Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, Central Bank Governor Glenford Ysaguirre, and other government and central bank officials, representatives of the private sector, opposition members and labour unions.

The leader of the IMF mission concluded the visit with the statement, including information on the growth of the Belizean economy by only 0.7% in 2013, because of continued decline in oil production and weak agricultural output. Also, according to his statement, inflation in the country decreased to 0.5%, from 1.3% in 2013. While declining, Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) remained high at 17.6 percent of total loans at end 2013. The banking system’s capital buffers improved and weaknesses in the system were addressed. International reserves improved to 4.3 months of imports (up from 3.3 months at end-2012), mainly due to PetroCaribe financing and private capital inflows. The primary fiscal surplus for FY2013/14 is estimated to have fallen to 1 percent of GDP, from 1.4 percent of GDP in FY2012/13.

Mr. Bouhga-Hagbe stated: “Risks continue to be tilted to the downside as additional external vulnerabilities could arise from a protracted period of weak growth in advanced economies or complications with PetroCaribe financing. New oil discoveries and growth-enhancing projects that are currently being implemented or envisaged could mitigate these risks… In this context, the mission pointed to the benefits of a more ambitious fiscal stance to create credible policy buffers that would help address downside risks. This could be achieved by a combination of revenue, expenditure, public financial management, and debt management measures. The mission also expressed the view that current efforts to further strengthen the banking system should continue.”

Belize Bank Ltd filed petition against the Government of Belize

April 26th, 2014

The Belize Bank Limited has filed a petition at federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to enforce US$18 million arbitration award against Belize Government. Belize Bank claims that the Belize Government “did not respond” to a demand to satisfy a “final award” issued by the London Court of International Arbitration on January 15, 2013. The award comprised BZ$36.9 million, plus annual compounded interest of 17% from September 8, 2012 until the date of the payment, regarding unpaid loans, plus £536,818 in legal costs.

It is stated in the petition that the loans were advanced to Universal Health Service Company Limited, a provider of healthcare services in Belize, and guaranteed by the Government of Belize in December 2004.

Belize Bank Ltd is controlled by British businessman and political activist Michael Ashcroft who has dual nationality of UK and Belize, and is a belonger of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Belize listed in United States INCSR report

March 21st, 2014

In the recently released 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy (INCSR) Report, – an annual evaluation compiled by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with other investigative authorities of the U.S. Government – it was confirmed already for the fourth time that the level of corruption remains very strong in Belize. The country is listed in the last category, named “Jurisdictions of Primary Concern”, with the countries which have the most inadequate and/or insufficient regulation of their financial systems.

It was specifically stated in the 2014 INCSR report about the suspicions that money laundering activity takes place in the Benque Viejo Free Zone and the Corozal Commercial Free Zone, which is believed to be “heavily involved in trade-based money laundering and the illicit importation of duty free products.”

The report notes that “Belize faces a challenging struggle against the threats of illegal drugs. Drug trafficking and drug use appear to be rising, and will continue if left unaddressed.” It also stressed that the investigative authority, the Financial Intelligence Unit, has poor resources and only limited assistance from other law enforcement agencies and government departments.

The INCSR pointed out that last year the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) issued statement on Belize where addressed the jurisdiction, which is part of this organization, with critics and certain pressure for “not complying with its AML/CFT action plan”, to fight the deficiencies.