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UDP Chairman: Artists Participating in Democracy is a Beautiful Thing

Much has been said about trade licensing and reform in the past couple of weeks as Government has introduced its bill. If the bill, in its current form, passes the National Assembly, it means that push-cart vendors, DJs and musicians will all be paying trade licenses. While some of the musicians were at the Biltmore yesterday for the launch of the BTB’s Music and Food Festival, others were in Belmopan yesterday raising concerns about the impact of this bill. We asked Senator Michael Peyrefitte about it and he welcomed the artists, who wanted to know more about how this affects their daily lives. 

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman UDP: “That’s a great thing and I think more people need to become more involved in legislation dn any type of policies that affect them. The artists are saying, look. You are not finding any ways or avenues for us to grow and to make money and do business. The only thing that you can come up with it a way to tax us without even finding opportunities for us. One DJ told me listen, Mike, sometimes I DJ and I make like 150, 175. Supposed they tell me that my tax is $200. It will be costing me to work. That makes no sense. So it is good,. It is encouraging to see people take part in the democratic process. I would hope that every time you have a committee meeting on any Bill that is being passed in the National Assembly, that anyone if affected would show up and make their presence felt and their voices heard. I think it’s an excellent thing.”

However, some have questioned the government’s urgency to collect revenue and the timing of this bill, given the fact that the economy is just rebounding following two years of lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Peyrefitte told Love News today that he would not be surprised if the Briceno administration pulls this bill back. Peyrefitte, who is also a trained economist, added that Government has to do more to raise revenue without taxation. 

Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman UDP: “That’s their job. I’m not going to help them with their job. They said that they would, when Johnny Briceño was Leader of the Opposition he used to always complain about how we need to grow the economy. We need to grow the economy and he comes into power and has done not one thing to grow the economy. All he does is taxes, taxes, taxes. So you have a bunch of artists. I’ll give him one. I’ll give him one. I hear the budget is about $1 million for this International Food & Music Festival. What you can do is, take the majority of that money, if not all, and hire only Belizean artists and pay them and that way, you’re providing an avenue for them to perform and earn so when you tax them the $200, they don’t mind. So you can come up with a festival to benefit mostly foreigners while at the same time, you have in parliament, a Bill that taxes local artists that you’re not even hiring. It makes no sense but I have a feeling that the Government will renege on this Trade License Bill because they’re a walk back Government. They always tender things and when they realise that the people aren’t with it, they pull it back. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull it back. What they need to do is indeed, create more of these festivals  and hire local artists. That’s one idea. For example, the Jamaica Tourist Board does a lot of these music festivals, you know? And they themselves are major sponsors of these events. But if you look at the line up, they are 90% Jamaican artists because the Tourist Board is going to spend its money on their people. We are the only people in a music festival that’s spending the majority of the money on an event that is supposed to display us on foreign people and like I said, some of the foreign artists that I hear, I mean, the UDP and me in particular, nobody likes them more than we you know? But at the same time, what we’re saying, if you’re taking Government money, it should be spent on Belizean, on the Belizean people and Belizean artists. That’s our only thing.”