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House’s final meeting of 2019 covers LPG price war and further offshore regulation

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Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2019. 9:22 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The House of Representatives and Senate meet back to back this week to consider several urgent issues.

Earlier this week, news broke of a “price war” in the liquefied petroleum gas industry between main importers, smaller retailers and the Government of Belize.

The importers – Belize Western Energy Limited, Gas Tomza, and Southern Choice Butane (Zeta Gas) – moved to sell butane for four dollars and twenty cents per gallon, 55 cents below the Government’s set price of $4.75 announced on November 15.

The Government is to introduce amendments to the Supply Control Act that would increase penalties substantially against companies that are selling butane at a price below what has been fixed by the government.

According to Tracy Taegar-Panton, Minister of State, Investment, Trade & Commerce, “When the prices are ignored, the persons who suffer are local retailers because they can’t buy for the prices that suppliers are paying at and they can’t sell for the price that they are buying from the suppliers. So it is creating a lot of tensions in terms of the market. LPG is a very important commodity for our households as well also for the small business in the tourism sector in particular. So the government will take every measure it can to ensure that there is compliance with government regulated prices.”

The Minister said that the current penalty for violation is “negligible” and needs to be increased, and that the companies were advised not to take their course of current action.

The National Gas Company Limited, created in a public-private partnership supported by legislation earlier this year, to manage the distribution of LPG, has spooked importers even though they will still be allowed to import and retail butane.

Meanwhile, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight had indicated to reporters that Government will be introducing further amendments to the country’s offshore financial regulations in order to further appease the European Union’s regulators.

After the latest round of amendments was passed in October, the EU removed Belize from a blacklist of non-cooperative countries and placed it on a “grey list.” There were no other penalties assessed including any loss of financial aid.

The meeting at the National Assembly Building in Belmopan starts at 10 a.m. and we will have continued coverage as the day progresses.

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