This was submitted to various government bodies as well as the San Pedro Sun. I think the author makes a good case:
IN 2004 there was one significant event that made Belize a viable place for investment for a new breed of investors that rely upon high tech communications in order to do business on a world-wide scale and in Belize. The same event set the stage for a significant increase in the amount of retirees from around the world that would consider Belize a place to spend their hard earned retirement accounts. That event holds promise to all Belizeans of equal access to information, as it holds keys to knowledge and the power that brings along with it.
DSL and high speed internet access had arrived – or has it? A Digital Subscriber Line to the internet and the world wide web means a lot of things to many people; the arrival of high technology. It represents the digital age and the information age. It is the ability to communicate inexpensively, efficiently and above all, securely. It represents privacy and at the same time, the ultimate public access and awareness.
Various countries in Central America recognize the value of outside investors; as well as retirees looking for an alternate location; whether it’s due to the inadequacy of their own countries in providing a safe and economically viable retirement, or just the desire to live happily in a warm and pleasant environment for health or mental sanity.
These individuals have needs that some countries such as El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras – and to some extent Belize – cater to, and in fact compete for – some more successfully than others.
Most of us know what this does for a country; for every new real job created approximately 4 new jobs will ensue. For every $ spent, each $ will be re-spent and create 4-5 times it’s value for the country it’s spent in. This is referred to as the multiplier effect and is a basic term in economics.
GROWTH – is what the game is all about. It is what Belizeans need – economic power; and it is what BTL needs. It is what any economy must have to sustain its population with goods and services and the shareholders of BTL with earnings and dividends.
So, what do we do to attract these funds to Belize? We find out what these groups of people need and we try to accommodate those needs.
In the case of investors and retirees a HIGH TECH image is very attractive. A modern businessperson expects the ability to communicate with a VPN connection to his or her home office; to jump on a video conference at the spur of the moment, to safely and securely browse the web and do research; to place a VOIP call to his or her office; which these days often does not even encompass a digital T1 or a PRI circuit (both conventional voice circuits), but utilizes increasingly VOIP for interoffice communications with a multi-channel VOIP router that works seamlessly with large PBX (phone) systems. It has significant advantages and features; besides security – over conventional phone systems.
The largest emerging group that will provide the most growth to Belize, sustainable for the next 20 years, are retirees. And we are indeed looking at the tip of the iceberg. Similarly, retirees look for ways to communicate with their relatives and loved ones. These are not high-volume users, nor are they users that can afford to call the US with the rates offered by BTL. All the neighboring countries offer reasonable rates to the US and Europe; where the absence of VOIP may not even be an impediment and they are all HIGH TECH for anyone who cares to look – and there are many lookers these days. They are informed consumers and they evaluate their choices carefully. IP telephony is one of the great incentives they have and I assure you; as it was for me, its dealmaker. The saddest part for myself is the ability to communicate with my 14 year old son in Seattle with video conferencing – not a substitute for phone calls considering volume.
Blocking VOIP increase the immediate call volume to the US. Then it will decrease and the remaining premium will be small. This is because email IS a substitute, as is satellite communications; and for anyone to believe that they can limit satellite communication is extremely naive. What will remain is a regressive LOW TECH image; and a significant decrease in the flow of investment and funds to Belize. This faltering growth, in comparison to what is ought to be, will have a lasting effect on both Belize’ economy and the financial well being of BTL. I believe its shareholders will recognize this and it will be reflected in the expected future value of it’s shares.
Though individual investors are not normally very smart; or they would all be creating so called money machines, the market is intelligent; and what it may see for the future of BTL and the local economy; if the choice is to take a step backward and move to LOW TECH image, will be negative. Negative, because all the areas of growth in a modern society and in modern telecommunications focus around HIGH TECH and opportunities in the HIGH TECH sector; opportunities that BTL should focus upon and embrace so that it can continue to experience growth – intermediate and for the long term; instead of a few months with a mediocre increase. This is what I believe the expectations for BTL's stock will reflect in a few months if a LOW TECH image is adopted.
There will be no significant increase in calls to the US except for a short interim period, and only for a very small percentage – large investors became large investor because they are good at creating wealth – not spending hard earned money. A few individuals switch to satellite connections over the course of a year, but the many will conclude their business in Belize and go elsewhere – this is already the trend and talk amongst many of the largest investors here – those that already have significant holdings outside of Belize. Nicaragua is staged to attract a large number of investors from Belize.
The few local businesses will simply suffer and put more less money into the local economy, which in turn will hurt BTL.
Retirees are buying one of the most expensive DSL connections in the entire world. Count the blessings. ADSL is about 10 times the cost of ADSL in any other country. The phone rates to any European country, as an example; are between 35 and 40 times (yes you read right) of what the rate is for neighboring countries – and that is not VOIP, these are conventional voice rates. What’s the cost? About two cents to the US maybe 4 or 6 to most countries to Europe depending upon how you wish to terminate the call – if BTL is paying more I will help get that cost down as this is my particular area of expertise and I do have all the right connections.
I believe that BTL will make more money decreasing the cost of DSL – allowing it to become accessible to more Belizeans. Bring in the masses. As an example look closely at and compare to cell phone usage.
Though I believe a lowered cost of broadband will increase BTL revenues, broadband access can remain relatively expensive as far as the some aspects are concerned – the phone rates kill business and growth. One large fact to consider; when the rate and cost goes down people call more and the economy gets a boost and then people spend more and call more!
The lowering of telecom rates in the US has not lowered the overall spending on telecommunications. People simply call more. The average expenditure for telecommunications in the US per consumer for long distance is $50 BZ. This does not include the line charges. It has remained almost constant for over two decades. The difference is in the volume of calls and the ability for individuals to communicate more and reach farther. This stimulates economic growth and if Belize and BTL can stimulate growth, it will increase its earnings.
Every day I encounter young Belizeans whom are looking to high tech as their future; web hosting and web programming. Take advantage of the relative wage structure and become a force in web related business and call center operations for instance.
There are many areas where Belize telecommunications industry can grow if it chooses a HIGH TECH image.
The immediate one is a greater number of retirees and larger Investors. Call center operations; requires broadband and VOIP termination. The clue here is a lot of broadband access as in multiple T1s (a T1 is 1.5Mbps up and down). Broadband and Hosting. Domain Registration: .BZ is a great domain name. Western Samoa in association with of of my bus partners; and his relationship the King of Samoa; under exclusive licensing, launched themselves as .WS [WORLDSITE] – Western Samoa is doing quite well with that.
As you all know; a handful of people contribute the majority of the tax base for Belize – these people rely on and are accustomed to having a HIGH TECH infrastructure. The absence of which will further deteriorate the already strained relationship between BTL and those individuals. Distrust is becoming an issue at this point and that is paramount in any symbiotic or business relationship.
BTL; in light of trade agreements set to take effect as well; make a choice for yourselves and for all Belizeans. Go HIGH TECH; grow faster in a healthy environment. Be the industry leader when competition eventually takes hold, though as a business person I applaud your stature at this time and the tenacity you have shown to remain a true monopoly for so long. Be proactive and become and INDUSTRY leader with a HIGH TECH image, be part of creating and contributing to a positive and prosperous future for Belize and for BTL, and experience and continue to experience REAL growth for years to come.
Do you want to lead and grow and prosper, or do you want to follow and lag behind further and further and take steps backwards? You either embrace HIGH TECH now or you loose the ground you have gained since 2004.
Briefly about myself as my background is relevant in this case. I’m an Engineer in Telecommunications from Norway and Sweden; BA Management, MBA, USA; Frmr. Stockbroker, Series 7 and 63, currently semi-retired with interests in Telecommunications in the US. and business advisor to the founder of a publicly trade telecommunications company in the US with 250,000+ individual telecommunications representatives.