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House discuss Town Council Bill

The eighth bill that was introduced today at the Special Sitting of the House of Representatives in Belmopan was the Town Councils Amendment Bill 2017. The bill makes provisions for greater autonomy to the Town Councils for raising funds for capital projects. Opposition Leader John Briceno and Prime Minister Dean Barrow debated the bill.

John Briceno, Opposition Leader:

“As I understand is that apparently it is giving the opportunity to be able to raise funds by floating bonds or to borrow monies for the work of the councils but whilst that might definitely and obviously under the direction or the consent and support of the Ministry of Finance but the question I ask is why is it that the council will could or may establish companies under the companies act as they said ‘subject to subsection 1 the council may establish companies under the companies act to raise funds for infrastructural development projects. Now we have seen what has taken place with BIL the Belize Investment Limited whereby hundreds of millions of dollars has been transferred through BIL with very little accountability to this house and to the people and when you see only certain companies like the Agueyes Brothers getting contract after contracts are they now trying to transfer that not only not from Central Government but even to the town councils I don’t know and I ask myself why is it that we need to be able to allow them to set up these companies. I certainly would urge that we remove this section from the amendments because then it can create a lot of problems in the near future.”

Rt.Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister:

“I fail to see how something as straightforward and beneficial as this can result in controversy how the leader of the opposition can begin to see anything remotely sinister about either the bill itself or the fact that we are asking that it be passed all at once today. What does the bill do? It confers greater autonomy on all the town councils. As the law now stands the two city councils are able to do what we are saying all Town Councils should be able to do so this is a blow for equality, it is a blow for greater autonomy, it is a blow for capacity building so I don’t know how given all three of those considerations the leader of the opposition can have any difficulty. The reason for wanting to pass it all at once today is simple. The San Ignacio/ Santa Elena Town Council is in the process of constructing a new town hall I believe everybody knows that the old place was condemned and so I think the building has been demolished and the council has sold the property. They are trying to pay for the construction of the new town council out of their funds revenues and subventions from the Central Government but that is not enough. So they have gone to the National Bank of Belize And they are seeking a loan.”