Posted: Monday, May 4, 2020. 6:31 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: According to a press statement from the former major importers of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG/butane), there is currently a limited supply of the cooking implement in country.
They claim that after their last shipments on April 30, and without the benefit of the interim injunction sought and not granted in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the National Gas Company is the only company licensed to import and distribute LPG and it has not yet said how it plans that distribution and the sale price.
The importers point out that the NGC’s largest shareholder is BWT Holdings LLP based in Jackson, Minnesota, United States, and repeats that it is operating outside the boundaries of the law that governed the former importers for decades.
Specifically, they cite Section 7 of the National Liquefied Petroleum Gas Project Act, 2019 under which they are “exempt from any duties, taxes and imposts levied or imposed under the aforesaid Acts and other laws including but not limited to import duties, excise taxes, environmental taxes and general sales taxes prior to the Commercial Operations Date and shall thereafter be exempt from income and business taxes (and any other taxes in substitution thereof (if any)) from and after the Commercial Operations Date. (2) The developer shall be exempt from all exchange control laws and regulations for the duration of the term of the Definitive Agreement. (3) The Supplies Control Act shall not apply to the importation and wholesale by the Developer of LPG.”
The importers point out that Belize has not faced a shortage of butane in country under the now former regime, implying that once their supply runs out there may be one. Also, they point out that having acted against former monopolies, the Government seemed willing to make certain concessions for what is effectively a monopoly, and majority foreign-owned at that.
For its part, NGC managing director Dr. Gilbert Canton in a recent interview said its first shipment to the port of Big Creek, Stann Creek District, would come in on April 30 and reiterated that the key change is that there is a shorter distance from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Belize than with the former importers.
Dr. Canton made note that the former importers declined to participate in the bid to ship into Belize (won by Carib Trading LPG) but does not indicate how it will distribute if the former employers refuse to collaborate with them.
The constitutional case awaits a date of hearing before Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana, while the importers will seek leave to appeal against the decision on the interim injunction to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
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