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Belize: Decentralization, Rockville and Belize City

Banak Street, Belize City

Posted: Friday, June 24, 2016. 11:09 am CST.

By Richard Harrison: Belize City was founded (originally as “Belize Town”) in 1638 by British lumber harvesters. It had previously been a small Maya city called Holzuz. Belize City is the largest city in Belize and was once the capital of the former British Honduras.

Belize City has a daytime population of around 70,000 people in approximately 20,000 households. It is located at the mouth of the Haulover Creek, which is a tributary of the Belize River. The city was built on swampy marshlands that were below sea level, and thus required several canals as drainage, and many thousands of truckloads of landfill over the years.

Rockville, which is located 21 miles west of Belize City, is the closest limestone mountain range, and is its principal source of aggregate material.

This limestone deposit is estimated to have a lifetime market value of around BZ$3 billion at current prices, within an area of around 200 acres, which makes it one of the most valuable real estate in Belize City area.

Accordingly, it is currently “owned” by a company named National Aggregates Limited…..previously by Belize Aggregates Ltd….purportedly a company linked to the Matalon Building in Belize City….which pillow talks suggest is linked to an Ashcroft enterprise.

This deposit generates in the neighborhood of an estimated BZ$10 million revenues annually at the gate.

The owners are said to pay a small mining license fee….and an even smaller rural property land tax. That is apparently all the Government of Belize gets from this very valuable asset. The private “owners” are smiling all the way to the bank.

This property should be owned by Belize City……even if a private company is contracted to develop the asset in line with city economic and environmental objectives. The lion’s share of earnings from this asset should be going into the development of Holzuz.

The Central Government doubled its subvention to Belize City, from $2.197 million to $4.2 million, in the year 2013-14. This is peanuts compared to what the city pays to Central Government in income, business and sales taxes. During that year, the Belize City Council raised revenue mostly from increased property taxes, which contributed BZ$9.39 million of the total revenues of BZ$25.54 million.

Belize City needs a lot more revenues to finance the kind of development required for it to become a truly competitive city that fully exploits its strategic location in the Caribbean Basin of Central America.

Belize, in general, needs greater decentralization of its financial governance.

The Rockville limestone deposit is what should be “nationalized in the public interest”…..with the ownership lease title belonging to the people of Belize City, in the “person” of its local government.

The revenues to Belize City from this deposit could be as much as what the city gets from Central Government subventions, and these revenues would grow as the city grows.

If the Government of Belize cannot substantially increase its cash “subventions” to the municipalities…then it should consider leasing properties of value to the municipalities (especially valuable mining deposits in their vicinity), so that these can be used to increase and expand their revenue sources.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.


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