The Government of Belize (GOB) has publicized its plans to expand the trade licensing regime to the villages, but this week the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) wrote the Prime Minister to say that the announcement sends a “mixed signal.”
Specifically, the BCCI’s letter, dated Wednesday, October 20th, said that while the business community has been in consultations with the government on the matter of reforming the regime, the move to introduce the fee to villages was not part of those discussions.
“This ‘mixed signal’ is augmented by the fact that [Cabinet] has gone ahead to announce the expansion of the regime to the businesses that operate in the villages,” the BCCI wrote. “While this issue has been broached in years past, we must stress that this topic did not feature in any of the recent BCCI-Ministry discussions. Therefore, this announced decision further weighs down on the principles of ‘good faith’ that has otherwise served as the hallmark of the consultations that we have been engaged in over the years.”
The BCCI’s letter follows the Wednesday, October 13th Cabinet Brief that announced that the Minister of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labor & Local Government, Hon. Oscar Requeña, had received Cabinet’s approval for the “implementation of trade licensing reforms in all municipalities and villages. The reforms will modernize and standardize the trade licensing regime. Additionally, villages will, for the first time, be able to charge trade licensing fees.”
Minister Requeña had told The Reporter last Thursday that while the exact fees for rural communities have not been finalized as yet, the system applied would differ from that currently in use. One palpable difference, the minister explained, would be that the trade license fees applied in the villages would be dependent on the classification of businesses.
The Minister had stressed that the motivation for the change was to provide rural communities with the ability to generate greater revenues on their own. This point was echoed by National Village Council Association (NAVCO)’s President Javier Sabido. “Well it is something that we welcome and something that NAVCO was really fighting for because the only revenue that comes from the village council is the liquor license fee. … These trade licenses…will create more income to the village council and they will have something to collect at ever interval which they can then use to invest within their villages.”