Ratifying Foreign Arbitral Awards for Ashcroft?


On Thursday, January 28, there will be a special sitting of the Senate specifically to Ratify the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
It would appear that the move is specifically designed so that awards which are outstanding on Michael Ashcroft-related judgements to now be legally paid.
The Government of Belize has awards which are outstanding to the Ashcroft Alliance but have not been paid since it needs parliamentary approval and the Government had not yet ratified the convention. The move now paves the way so that the Ashcroft Alliance can be paid the sums which are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
During an interview on Channel 5 and Krem News, Prime Minister John Briceño went out of his way to deny the assumption. He tried to explain, making gesticulations never before seen from a national leader, holding his head and bowing repeatedly that: “This has nothing to do with Michael Ashcroft. Can I repeat it again? Can I repeat it again? It has nothing to do with Michael Ashcroft. Period. Okay? And he has not come to us to try to pass anything so he could collect his money, so please.”
Briceno had stated that “We are doing some delicate negotiations with issues of some of the debt that we have and to able to address then we need to pass this UN convention so that we can be able to proceed. But we have been very careful and we have been assured that this cannot be then used by any other persons who have any other case against the government of Belize, of monies owed to them to be able to collect.”
The disassociation went further with a press release with a bold header stating that “GOB Advances Belize’s International Obligations.” The release goes to pains highlighting that, “Having recognized this Convention in October of 1980, before Independence, and consenting to its continued applicability in September of 1982, Belize is one of only 33 countries that has failed to formally ratify the Agreement. Globally, as of August 2020, 162 member countries of the United Nations are active parties to this important Convention.
The purpose for which Government now sets about this formal ratification, apart from fulfilling Belize’s international obligations, is to facilitate the possibility of a debt-for-conservation related transaction which has the potential to materially improve the state of the public finances.”
If not for Ashcroft then, the release hints that it is possible that the PUP government may be entering into other private financial arrangements. “Regularizing Belize’s membership to this vital Convention is consistent with international best practices, with the added benefit of assuring prospective investors, especially in the current, depressive economic conditions, that this Administration, as pledged repeatedly in its march to Belmopan, will abide by and advocate for the rule of law.”
It smells like private interests, outside of the Ashcroft Alliance may be waiting in the wings. And like any investor they want to ensure that, given the PUP’s history, that their pound of flesh is guaranteed.
After all, they are looking to ratify a 41-year old convention where there was previously no need to do so.