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Oct 20, 2017

B.T.L. to get borrowing power; Opposition sharply attacks ‘rushing’ bills

Today’s session of the House of Representatives had a loaded agenda. Several bills were returned for second reading, including the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. There were also new bills introduced, including the Petroleum Operations (Maritime Zone Moratorium) Bill imposing the moratorium on exploration for petroleum and other operations in the maritime zone; and the Stake Bank Cruise Docking Facility Development Amendment Bill to make it consistent with the Definitive Agreement signed in August. But we start with the early sparks raised by one of the new bills, the International Banking (Amendment) Act, which redefines categories of local entities by which international banking business may be conducted. As with the Town Council Act amendment raised at the last House meeting, it benefits one particular entity – Belize Telemedia Limited, which is seeking a loan to expand its broadband network. But Opposition Leader John Briceño raised sharp objection to the tactic of passing the bill in all stages, which he said robbed the Opposition of an opportunity to contribute and he underlined the Government’s penchant for pulling a fast one.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“Madam Speaker, perhaps I should, in introducing the bill, indicate that it’s not a very long or involved amendment that we are seeking. Heretofore under the Act, Government and statutory bodies wholly owned by Government, could in fact do international banking business. We are in fact seeking to expand that category of Government-controlled entities, and the short objective, or the immediate trigger for the amendment, is B.T.L.’s need to make a fairly substantial loan to fund the Internet-to-homes program. Initially, I believe, they are seeking to borrow thirty-five million dollars from Atlantic Bank, but not all of it is to come from the domestic pot of funds. There is a small component to come from AtlaBank International, in order for that to happen, we need to amend the legislation. That is the rationale, and because they want to move quickly, later on I will ask that it be taken through its stages forthwith.”

 

John Briceno

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“Madam Speaker, I want to put on record: here again the Government is changing legislation, claiming again – everything is an emergency for this Government – stating that they have to ram this through the House in all three readings; without giving us, the Opposition, an opportunity to study the bill. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we will be against it, but we need to understand beter what it is they are trying to do, and we need to give an opportunity for it, when it goes to House Committee, for the public to go also and ask questions and give their views. This is what is happening with this right now, Madam Speaker: everything is an emergency that is why right now we have the hustling going on with BIL…

(Cross-talking between Briceño and Speaker)

 

I need to address that the Government is not giving us the Opposition the respect; they are not giving us an opportunity to study what they are doing, Madam Speaker.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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