The Government’s proposed Trade License Bill is still being discussed. That’s because the controversial piece of legislation had musicians, DJs, entertainers and online vendors upset over the timing, the rationale and the structure of the taxes they are being asked to pay. We caught up with Labour Minister Oscar Requena for an update on the bill, his thoughts on the concerns raised and the reasoning behind the bill. He explained that part of the ongoing consultations is the hiring of a consultant.
Oscar Requena, Minister of Labour: “We’re very happy that there was the House Committee meeting that dealt with the trade license bill and certainly there were various stakeholders represented at that meeting at which they had the opportunity to express their views and their concerns so certainly this process continues. We are also continuing further consultation with other stakeholders because we want to ensure that at the end of the day whatever we have in the legislation really takes into account all the concerns and the best concerns of our stakeholders but at the same time you know ensuring that the purpose of the bill in terms of empowering our rural communities is maintained. I want to say at this time we have hired a consultant to further continue the discussion with our stakeholders and to ensure that we take into account every aspect that has to be taken into account so that when we tidy up the bill it is going to be one that will be able to address those concerns.”
Minister Requena conceded that many of the views being expressed are ones the Government says it is considering before finalizing the legislation. We also asked him if this is just another way of saying the Government is cash-strapped.
Reporter: What do you say to a critic that says it’s just the government trying to make more money –
Oscar Requena, Minister of Labour: “Absolutely not. Our commitment was really to improve the way businesses conduct business across the country to ensure that there is regulation and at the end of the day that the businesses that are out there certainly are improved so that they can deliver a better service to the clientele.”
Reporter: Is it the right time ? People are saying it’s not the right time, we’re trying to come out of covid, is it the right time ?
Oscar Requena, Minister of Labour: “Well I would say to you in hindsight people have a right to express how they feel. We understand and we recognize that you know Belizeans are going through a very difficult time and we’re here to listen.”