Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2018. 9:00 a.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: With the passing of the election season, the Government of Belize is expected to revisit several national issues that it put on hold to deal with the March 7 Municipal Elections.
Among those national issues is the pending voter re-registration exercise which is twenty years overdue. Last year, the Governor General signed a Statutory Instrument, postponing the re-registration exercise which was scheduled for July 2017. Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Doug Singh explained that holding the re-registration exercise this July would have been impractical, given that the window before the cut-off date for the upcoming municipal elections is January 10, 2018, which would only leave of six months to complete the exercise.
Singh also said that GOB was $20 million shy of what it needed to hold the exercise and did not make any allocations for re-registration in the 2017/2018 national budget. The topic of re-registration became a topic of major discussion after former Immigration Director Ruth Meighan, said that the 2012 General Elections were subject to fraud after a large number of people obtained fraudulent nationality certificates, allowing them to vote in the election. The opposition People’s United Party (PUP), and the Belize Progressive Party (BPP), both condemned the postponing of re-registration.
The second national issue, linked to the first, is the referendum on whether or not to commit the territorial dispute with Guatemala to the International Court of Justice. GOB had mentioned it several times, including last month at the meeting of the Organization of American States, that the referendum would not be held before the municipal elections, or voter re-registration exercise.
GOB has still been carrying on an educational campaign leading up to the eventual referendum, visiting communities and educational institutions all over the country. The BPP has vehemently opposed the idea of going to court over what it says is an established fact, while the PUP has changed its position several times in the past few years. Initially the party that began the process that would eventually lead up to taking the claim to the ICJ, the PUP. under the leadership of Francis Fonseca, said that it did not have a position on whether or not to go to the ICJ. When John Briceño assumed control of the PUP, he reversed the PUP’s position and said that the party could not support going to the ICJ “at this time”.
Another national issue the Belizeans need to be aware of is the pending increase in the price of Butane. In January the Government of Belize, through the Belize Bureau of Standards, brokered a deal with the three importers of Butane in the country, Gas Tomza, Belize Western Energy Limited and Z Gas, that there will be an increase, but in the latter portion of March (after the elections). GOB had already given the importers a 32 cents on the gallon price increase in January, which sent the price per 100-pound cylinder up by $7.
The importers were unhappy because they wanted an increase of $1.25, which would have sent prices up by as much as $31. GOB also agreed that the March price increase would remain fixed until 2019 when a new formula to calculate the wholesale and retail prices would be introduced. That new formula is also expected to see some increase in the overall price of butane.
GOB hasn’t released specific dates on which any of these issues will be addressed.
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