14 Million More for the George Price Highway
The Hustle Continues
Mr. President I rise to make my contribution on this issue. Mr. President the hustle continues right in front of our eyes and it stinks to Timbuctoo. I am new to these Senate meetings but on the occasions that I have been here my colleagues and I have had to speak on the blatant abuse of the Belizean people’s money. We have had to call out the government about Lake I Blvd. We have had to call out the Government about Fabers Road. We have had to call out the Government about the Municipal Airstrip project. All projects that have cost the Belizean people far too much and we are not getting value for money on these projects.
Mr. President, today mi head tight with this one. Today the Government will once again get its way and borrow another 14 million dollars to finish a 19-mile stretch of road that will end up costing the Belizean people close to 80 million dollars. Yes Mr. President, 80 million dollars.
Drap Shart by 25%
Mr. President, when you play basketball in Belize there is a thing call drap shart. Drap shart is when a player takes a shot and it does not reach the rim. Well the vast majority of projects that have been executed by this UDP government and that are still on-going di drap shart real bad. This 19-mile stretch of road has drap shart by 25%. Mr. President this dah rough stuff. This dah no joke.
Cost of Roads
Mr. President, under this government the cost of road building has gone from maybe a million or 1.5 million to anywhere from 3 million to 8 million dollars a mile. Mr. President do you remember when the Prime Minister had a press conference and marshalled the engineers from the Ministry of Works to explain why Fabers Road cost the Belizean people 8 million dollars. Well I want you to see Fabers Road now. The quality is shameful.
Background in Project Management
Mr. President, I have some background in project management and from my experience there is a thing called a contingency that is allocated just in case there are over-runs. So this government is saying to the Belizean people that they spent the contingency and still drap shart by 14 million dollars. Either we have some lightweight engineers or we have some serious leakage from these projects.
Who Got Compensated for Land?
At the house meeting last Friday, the Minister of Works said that this project ballooned over 70 million dollars because they had to acquire land. I wonder who all got compensated for land and how much were they paid? From what I am hearing some Good, Good UDP’s got some Big, Big money as compensation for land. Like I said earlier Mr. President, the hustling continues.
Wastage and Corruption has led to Poverty
Mr. President, the wastage and corruption that have been taking in Belize place over the years have contributed to the increase in poverty since the monies have been siphoned off into the pockets of cronies and special interests and not reaching the people. Our people deserve better Mr. President. I thank you!
What this Issue Reminds Me Off
Mr. President you know what this issue reminds me of? When I was young and there was always this one person who wanted to change the rules after a game had started just so he or she could take advantage of everyone else. That is what this UDP government is doing to the Cruise Sector today. This government has taken a heavy handed approach and squeezing out the tax dollars from an important sector of the tourism industry. By passing this Amendment, Government is using its legislative powers to turn years of wrong into a right. Mr. President, this is a dangerous precedent.
Mr. President the facts are:
GST does not Apply
Until this amendment, the GST Act did not apply to tour operators that have contracts with the cruise lines, because they are zero-rated. According to the Caribbean Court of Justice, Cruise Solutions was correct in not paying GST for their contracts with the cruise lines. What the CCJ’s ruling means is that the Government was illegally collecting taxes from all those operators that were afraid of this government and that ended up paying.
The CCJ’s ruling also means that the Government owes all these operators millions of dollars that were illegally collected over the years. From my investigations, Government should owe the operators collectively, well over 10 million dollars.
Prime Minister Lied
Unlike what the Prime Minister stated last week, the tour operators are not eager to pay the GST. In fact, they lodged their complaint with the Government some years ago regarding the strenuous level of taxation on the sector. The reality is that without the passing of this amendment, the operators would be lining up at the Governments door to get their money back or at least a credit note.
Taxation on the Sector
Mr. President, after today, legally, Tour Operators have to pay 6% Business Tax and 12 ½ percent on GST. Almost 19% when added together. This level of taxation on any business is stifling. And the reality is that the tour operators cannot pass this on to the cruise lines so they have to absorb the GST as a standard part of their operations. Instead of a piecemealed approach to taxing the tourism industry, this Government should take a holistic approach to ensure that the industry continues to grow and develop.
Retroactive Laws Principally Flawed
With the Amendment to the GST Act being retroactive, the Government continues to head down a slippery slope and using its’ powers to make laws to bully our citizens while at the same time giving the middle finger to the Caribbean Court of Justice, the highest court for Belize.
Mr. President, in a time when our economy is struggling the last thing we need is to have more people lose confidence. Thank you!!!