The Government of Belize (GOB)’s new Bill to break up the monopoly associated with the importation Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) has received widespread support, including support from the National Gas Company (NGC) itself.
The Reporter spoke with NGC’s spokesperson Daniel Gutierez, who opined that even though the Bill does allow for other importers, he is pleased that the amendment keeps the standards high. “From the perspective of the consumer they did not lower the standards, but rather upheld them,” Gutierez shared. “In the schedule you’ll see that the standards force anyone who imports to, at least, reach NGC standards, which is important for the consumer.”
Gutierez further emphasized that “This project was brought about as a response to the clammer by the Belizean people to do something about the fact that they were being taken advantage of,” Gutierez explained. “Junk LPG was being brought into the country and we had no idea, as a country, what the actual prices were.”
“That is what NGC was set up to solve in a partnership between the GOB and the Private sector,” continued Gutierez. “There is nothing in this amendment that is a departure from that; in fact it further strengthens the regime and further leads the maturation of the LPG industry in Belize.”
Gutierez also expressed his relief that the current administration did not completely undo what had been started under the previous administration.
The Reporter’s conversation with the NGC representative follows this week’s Sitting of the House of Representatives, during which the government introduced the National Liquefied Petroleum Gas Project (Amendment) Bill. The amendment seeks to “amend the National Liquified Petroleum Act No. 12 of 2019 of the substantive Laws of Belize revised edition 2011”.
Hon. Francis Fonseca, upon presenting the Bill, explained that the amendment seeks to achieve two things. First, the change is intended to delete section five of the act and replace it with a new section. The original Section 5 read:
“As of the Commercial Operations Date, the Developer [NGC] shall have the exclusive right to import wholesale LPG into Belize until the expiration of the term of the Definitive Agreement.” The amended section 5 will now read as follows:
“Subject to sections 5A, 6 and 6A, as of the Commercial Operations Date, the Developer shall have the right to import LPG into Belize and to engage in the business of selling and distributing LPG in accordance with regulation 3 of the Supplies and Control (Import/Export) Regulations or any other applicable regulations in effect from time to time.”
Fonseca closed his presentation on the bill by noting that NGC had been consulted on these proposed amendments and had agreed on this course of action, which he says is aimed at mitigating the government’s liability and exposure. The government’s exposure stems form of a legal challenge to the original Act. The legal challenge is grounded primarily on the effect of the exclusive right to import conferred by section 5 of the act on the fundamental rights of the claimant.
Under the original arrangement NGC was given indemnity that if the exclusive agreement given for them to import LPG was declared invalid or unenforceable, the government would indemnify the company for any liability loss or damage.