Lake I Area Representative Cordel Hyde has the gargantuan task of reforming the Department of Lands as the Minister of Natural Resources. While there has been an increase in land tax collection, Minister Hyde says the ministry is also facing several legal challenges.
Hon. Cordel Hyde, Deputy Prime Minister: “We were able to collect more than twice what was collected the previous year in stamp duty and 30% more than was collected in land taxes the previous year and yet still there are many millions of dollars owing in land taxes. If the wealthy were paying their fair share, we wouldn’t be here in this deep mess. But chances are, the last government would have blown that too. As the Prime Minister announced in his budget debate presentation, it is hoped that with the concentrated efforts of the newly formed Tax Recovery Unit, we’ll be able to start slaying this dragon. Once more, I want to use this opportunity to inform the public, you don’t need to pay any employee to get anything done at the Lands Department. Everytime you pay your taxes you are paying us, public officers. You do not need to pay for the same service twice. We don’t condone that kind of skulduggery. We have no tolerance for that at the ministry mien. So whoever is doing it, they need to stop. We also have no tolerance for people who get lands cheaply under this scheme where the lands already have an owner and so the Government does not have the power to let that land, to transfer that land. Those persons buy the land from the Government for very cheap and then when we tell them, you know it’s a problem. You can’t have that land. You can’t keep that land, they turn around and take us to court and want to collect millions of dollars. It’s true. 40 something mil, um, thousand. Maybe 30 odd thousand. They have the face of brass. Face of brass. You know there’s a case that really gets under my skin. This gentleman bought, I think it was 170 acres for shrimp farming. Turns out only 30 of the acres were owned by the Government and so the next 130+ acres were not ours to give. That man paid $56,000 for those lands. That man is taking us to court and wants to sue us for $17 million and then no matter how we try to tell the man, listen man, we will give you an alternative land somewhere else. We will give you land that is suitable, nearby, for the same thing that you say you want to do. The man doesn’t want to hear that. He wants $17 million. You understand? I don’t know how those men walk around and drive around like nothing happened because that is criminal. That is immoral. Like, how can you say you’re a Belizean and want to do that to the Belizean people especially in a time like this? And we have tens of those cases where the Government of Belize and the people of Belize are on the book for millions of dollars. It’s really really sick man.”