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After backlash, Ministry of Local Government clarifies provisions of Trade Licensing Bill, 2022

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Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2022. 12:31 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Friday being the thirteenth, some sectors of Belizeans must have been wondering what they did wrong to get the “bad luck” of the Trade Licensing Bill, 2022, cast their way.

It came as a shock in particular to entertainers, online business operators and others that they would now be made to pay fees to the trade licensing board in their respective district or community to continue their operations (as not having a trade license is an offence under law).

The Ministry of Labour, Local Government, Rural Transformation and Community Development sought to allay concerns and offer clarifications in a Saturday press statement.

First, it reminds that trade licensing reform “dates back to 2014 and has gone through an extensive iterative process that has included extensive consultation with private and public sector stakeholders across the entire country.”

In its statement, the Ministry of Local Government said that no license requirement or fee would be levied on street and roadside vendors and microenterprises. Trade licenses would be issued solely for business establishments that have a “productive footprint of 600 square feet or more – eliminating common areas and amenities such as parking lots, restrooms, storage rooms” and such – hence limited to supermarkets, grocery stores, restaurants and so on.

It clarifies that “Acrobats, peddlers, amusement rides, and other such forms of entertainment are currently eligible for trade licensing assessment under the existing Trade License Act. This requirement remains under the proposed Schedule 7 but ONLY for the urban setting. For Belizean performers and entertainers, the fee to stage concert performances and so on is per event, decided by the local authority, charged per event (“day” in the legislation taken to mean the day of the event) and should not exceed 200 dollars.

Indeed, the fees in Schedule 7 to the Bill are the maximum fees that may be charged, but the Board is responsible for setting out the appropriate amount.

The Ministry also notes that the current legislation does not have a provision to grant trade licenses to entities that have been applying including e-business operators, freelance auto dealers, utility service providers such as plumbers, carpenters, and electricians to satisfy banking and financial institutions’ requirements such as the source of funds verification for deposits.

Now that the Bill is before Committee, interested parties may make representation to the Public Service, Labour, Industry and Trade Committee when it sits as announced by the National Assembly. The proposed Trade License Bill, 2022, once legislated, will not come into effect until the next trade licensing period starting January 1, 2023.

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