Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2019. 8:43 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: The House of Representatives, meeting on Friday, approved three outstanding bills with largely a minimum of controversy, which will next go to the Senate.
The Belize City Council’s 6 million dollar Municipal Bond is a go. It proposes interest rates of 3.2%, 3.43% and 3.7% at maturities of 91, 182 and 364 days. The goal is to relieve recurrent cash flow problems due to the seasonal nature of tax collection.
The Council points out that this would yield a greater return than what is currently being offered by the banks. The bill found with favor with Cordel Hyde, Area Representative, Lake Independence, who made note: “Usually the city council, at this time, is in their low season because trade licenses and property taxes are not coming in and they still have to service a [Belize] Waste Control bill for like quarter million dollars per month, salaries for workers which is like seven hundred thousand per month, not to mention cutting grass, digging drains, keeping the streets up and investing in human capital. So this will allow them to access some cheaper money than they would normally get from the commercial banks, plus they will have some monies extra for projects that will benefit residents of the city.
In reply, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow took credit for not forcing the Council to provide a bank guarantee, which he said had been advised by advisors and financiers in the Ministry and Central Bank.
The Council is currently repaying the last 20 million dollar bond obtained under the UDP Council of Darrel Bradley.
Next was the National Liquefied Petroleum Gas Bill which establishes a national company for purposing of regulating the importation of LPG (butane).
Hyde asked for – and the Prime Minister gave – assurances that the new company would bring prices down for the 83% of consumers that use LPG.
“…absolutely, with this National Gas Company, you will see a lowering of prices to the consumer….it will have the monopoly in terms of the importation, but how is that not better than the current situation where there is an oligopoly and where basically it is one Mexican common denominator that owns all the principal retailers or certainly the wholesalers. So we are in hoc to a Mexican concern. This will ensure that it is a Belizean concern, a public private company that will have the exclusive in terms of the importation.”
The P.M. also cited those involved, including former BNE CEO Gilly Canton; Michael Usher; Sir Michael Bowen and an American company as representative of the full political spectrum.
And a land tax amnesty approved by House bill will precede a “more robust collection system” inside the Ministry of Natural Resources, according to Minister Hugo Patt.
Cordel Hyde argued that thirty of the biggest landowners owe some $44 million in taxes, holding between them more than five percent of the national landmass and that this is the third such amnesty since 2010 while poorer Belizeans still have trouble acquiring a swamp lot.
Patt said Government can and will try, to reacquire lands in lieu of taxes, but P.M. Barrow warned that it is not as easy as it looks and follows a certain procedure. He claimed the support of the Chamber of Commerce and public service for the initiative.
Patt also promised that the list of beneficiaries will be made public.
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