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Mar 29, 2017

Gov’t Rushes PACT Bill to G.G. Despite Senate’s Disapproval

On Monday, the Senate defeated the PACT Amendment Bill in a significant first for the upper house, when a majority of parliamentarians voted against the proposed law.  The government is seeking to raise close to eleven million dollars in departure taxes, known as development fees, which it is increasing from thirty-five to forty U.S. dollars.  The N.G.O.s through APAMO and B.T.I.A. have strenuously opposed the increase so in the Senate it was rejected by a seven to six vote. That milestone in legislative history was seemingly short-lived, as government says it is going to present the Bill to the Governor General for approval.  As soon as that announcement was made, there was swift reaction. Senator Eamon Courtenay made a short statement saying, “the decision by the government is an act of supreme arrogance. It is a disrespect to the democratic process. It shows a complete unwillingness to consult in order to improve the Bill. This is exactly what the CCJ warned against ‘the cancer of prime ministerial governance.’”  The thirteenth senator, Osmany Salas as well as Senator Valerie Woods spoke fervently against the increase also addressed the issue today. 

 

Valerie Woods

Valerie Woods, P.U.P. Senator

“I had two initial reactions.  One: I’m not surprised.  I’m not surprised because Prime Minister Barrow and his government has had a history of ignoring what so many groups and persons wish to occur and only do so when people march, which occurred with the B.N.T.U.   It is not in the spirit of the consultation that would be required of a bill that was rejected by the Senate and the consultation to improve on it.  That is really the intent or that should have been the intent of a senate of any country but one in a democratic society.  And clearly this government has demonstrated time and time again that notwithstanding its rhetoric it really does not want a Senate that really functions as a check and balance.  And of course, in reading the press release, the rank incompetence continues to rear its ugly head because it’s referring to a bill that we really did not look at, if you consider it.  It says to vary the rate of the conservation fee collected from every non-Belizean departing from any air border.  That is not the bill we looked at.  We looked at a bill that introduced a development fee that has nothing to do with conservation but that is going to go through the PACT mechanism which is a slap in the face to conservation.  So, again we could not even get, just as the budget has been bogus and riddled with errors, the very press release to demonstrate its power, notwithstanding, it will move through this process.”

 

Osmany Salas

On the phone: Osmany Salas, N.G.O. Senator

“I noticed that the entire first paragraph of that press release is wrong.  It’s an indication to me that this has been approached in a very, a very hurried manner.  The first paragraph of the press release refers to an initial version of the PACT Amendment Bill that had been circulated for review and for comments.  That was pulled out and replaced with a newer version of the PACT Amendment Bill which is the one that was tabled at the House and then at the Senate earlier this week.  So that’s the first observation, you know.  Secondly, it’s not an adjustment to the conservation fee that was included in the PACT Amendment; it was a so-called development fee that would have been introduced under the PACT Act.  As we all know, that bill had been voted down in the Senate on Monday.”

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