Government Seeks to Streamline Trade License System for Municipalities

Government Seeks to Streamline Trade License System for Municipalities

The Government of Belize is looking to streamline the trade licenses system that will bring revenues to the local municipalities.  The amendments saw the second reading on Friday in the House of Representatives where the Minister of Rural Transformation and Local Government, Oscar Requena presented the Bill that was first read in the House in May this year.

Oscar Requena, Minister of Rural Transformation: “The trade license reform is a reform we promised under Plan Belize. Our goal for the trade license reform is two fold. A to strengthen village governance. B, to facilitate economic growth by improving the ease of doing business in both urban and rural areas. We are going to strengthen village governance by providing village councils with adequate resources to provide proper services to their communities. The fees collected from trade license will go directly to rural communities. It will not go to the central government. Many villages have a lot of businesses and these businesses are demanding better services from their councils. They want better streets, drainage, garbage collection and so on and residents are demanding for the same thing including better upkeep of their community assets such as parks and play grounds. The monies collected from the fees will go directly to addressing these needs. There is going to be a proper accounting system that will be set up and monitored within village councils. We already have examples of villages councils operating with improved accounting systems. These will be expanded to account for monies received under this new change. Rural communities are growing and at this time they have not had adequate resources to provide services to their residents. Businesses in urban areas have been clamoring for changes in the way they are assessed and paid their trade license fees. This reform brings significant improvements, the changes have been discussed with multiple stakeholders in long consultation sessions. Some of the key changes are. Madam Speaker, fees will now be assessed every three years instead of every year as is currently done now. This creates efficiency and predictability for both the business and the councils. There is a 10% ceiling and flooring against the assessed fee fro existing and new businesses. This is to prevent exessive charges for existing and new businesses and also to prevent councils from losing much needed revenue. Fees will be determined according to an established formula and will only used the productive footprint where business transactions are  conducted. This will create much needed predictability that businesses want.”

Hugo Pott rose on the opposition side rose in the house, accusing the government of trying to further cripple the small businesses across the country.

Hugo Patt, Area Representative, Corozal North: “Was to tax the biggest of all businesses, the medium businesses, the small businesses, but most importantly you guys are going after the peddlers. Those people who have to struggle every day either to sell their tarts, to sell panades, to sell tacos, people that have to work today, Madam Speaker, so that they can eat tomorrow. If they are not able to deliver on their goods today it means that family will not be able to eat tomorrow. There is no consideration on behalf of this administration for the people out there, for the single mothers out there who are struggling every day to meet their needs under the hot sun, trying to get something for the family. And that little bit of money uno going after, this is criminal Madam Speaker. And I see in this bill that at this point in time we’re not only moving from the reforms within the municipalities. I don’t know if we have members here that have rural communities that don’t realize how it is that the structural economic rubric of the families in the rural communities are made up. I see that we are now moving on to the Cayo district to introduce a tax that will see every other village having businesses within that community being taxed. This is common sense whatever tax is being introduced, ladies and gentlemen, will not be suffered by the businesses. Eventually all of this will trickle down to the consumers. All of this will be trickled down to the most vulnerable families. I don’t know whether we understand what is fully being debated here this afternoon, but certainly I don’t see how I could support such a bill that will see the addition of taxes to our people in particularly in my case where I have a lot of rural communities Madam Speaker, where I can see families struggling on a daily basis.”

As a former Mayor, Kevin Bernard spoke from a local management perspective, and accused Hugo Pott of trying to fool Belizeans through misinformation.

Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health and Wellness: “I was once the former mayor of Orange Walk and I had participated in many of these discussions as well. And I want to say I don’t know if the member trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom or frightening the small mom and pop shop but if you realize, those small mom and pop shop footprint would never reach 600 square feet. So there will never be tax of pay at trade license, unless you are singing for the big capitalists, as you will say. Peddlers used to pay, the Trade License Act right now as we speak, member, peddlers pay $10 every day for each time they appear. This is reducing that to 0.82 cents a day if you look at it and you calculate it. Get your maths right and don’t come here and try to fool the Belizean people. Read your current Trade License Bill and you will see what it tells you. This is an amendment making life easier for these people that does those small businesses. But Madam Speaker, I won’t get into him in detail because hit’s talking a pile of nonsense trying to trick those persons in the villages. Let’s look at Ladyville. Ladyville is a huge thriving village, look at the huge supermarkets going up in those places. You don’t pay a single trade license, but yet these same, the residents of Ladyville expect that the roads are fixed, the drains are clean, and the parks are maintained in those communities. In Orange Walk in Trial Farm you drive up in that area there are huge establishments, restaurants, huge supermarkets going up. Now we’re not saying that we are going after, we’re just targeting business. We are making it more equitable, we are making it more fair, we are making it a level playing field.”

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