Cabinet on Wednesday announced a significant reform that would impact villages across all districts. The reform is geared at modernizing and standardizing the trade licensing regime. The Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labor & Local Government, successfully convinced Cabinet to approve amendments that would allow village councils to charge trade licensing fees. This is a game-changer for all villages, but specifically for large villages like Ladyville, Hopkins, Placencia and Trial Farm that continues to expand with huge businesses. Minister Oscar Requena says this particular reform is being implemented to empower village councils in order to meet the demands that the communities require.
Oscar Requena, Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Local Government and Labour: “We have big communities such as Placencia, Independence, Ladyville, Caye Caulker, Hopkins and many others where these communities are very big, they have many business establishments and certainly the burden is on the village councils and the community to be able to meet the services that the community and the businesses require and as such it puts a heavy financial burden on village councils yet they don’t have any revenue base. So what the amendment seeks to do is really to allow these communities, villages across the country to be able to seek ways in which they can raise revenue to be able to assist them in the delivery of the much needed services. The matter of trade license is that we’re looking at these communities where we have several types of business that are being run in the community. We are proposing that there is going to be a district licensing board that is going to guide this process. Certainly there are going to be well spelt out criteria that are going to be used to help the board determine how to go about in setting out the fees that are going to be charged.”
One immediate concern that arises out of the proposal is that corruption may rear its ugly head simply because monies will be involved. Mismanagement of funds has been seen time and time again when it comes to the water boards in some villagers. Minister Requena, conceded to the possibility, but said that accountability and transparency will be of high priority once the plan is rolled out.
Oscar Requena, Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Local Government and Labour: “The law is there. A lot of times the problem is enforcement that you know the will is not out there to be able to enforce because I think we have seen over the past where the political will has never been there. The perception that oh you know the chairman or somebody in the council or somebody in the water board is my supporter so he or she can get away with those things. My philosophy is different, my approach is different. I firmly believe that we must be held accountable, we must report back to the people and that whatever resources are available should be used in the best interest of the people. So we do have the mechanisms and certainly we are going to be making certain amendments that will allow for the Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Rural Development to have more oversight to ensure that we demand the reports, that we get them, that where there are questions that we can go in and we can investigate and if anybody needs to be held accountable then the law is there to provide that level of support.”
The amendments will be forwarded to the Attorney General’s Ministry for legal drafting.