The Government of Belize has put its plan for national trade license reform on hold. This came after several sectors of society, including artists and DJs, complained that the proposed legislation was unfair and badly timed. The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents several business entities nationwide, also has taken issue with the bill in its current form. We asked Chamber President, Marcello Blake, to explain their concerns.
Marcello Blake, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “The bill in its current format requires quite a bit of work in tweaking some of the areas. Definitely as we’ve said publicly before and we’ve said at House committee while the villages were a point of discussion in the past it was never explicitly said to us that in fact the villages would be included in the bill. That has happened so for us it’s waster under the bridge so how do we address and adjust what is in the bill in order for it to work or function the way we anticipate it needs to based on best practice? The first thing is looking at the current structure and the structure that is now being proposed and it doesn’t necessarily deviate too far from each other because you’re still using the whole matter of annual rental value and a square footage in order to determine when in fact for us a trade license should be a flat fee. And so the goal here is that we know that the councils rely on these incomes and so it could not necessarily be removed overnight but the councils also need to be looking at additional sources of revenue so that we can gradually move away from the way it’s being calculated and bringing it down to a flat fee. In regards to the taking it out to the villages we absolutely enjoy that the first couple layers are in fact based on a flat fee, based on square footage so you know anything below a thousand is on a fixed dollar value but then after the thousand it starts to mimick the same regime that is in place in the towns and cities nearest those villages. So you’re taking what is a broken system and moving it out rather than trying to fix. I think it’s an opportunity for the government to look at a pilot if you want to call it with the villages where you run it as a flat fee rather than necessarily taking the current calculation after you hit the thousand square feet.”
For its part, the Chamber says it continues to advocate for clarity.