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Nov 8, 2019

Take Back Lands in Place of Taxes Owed, Says Opposition Leader

John Briceño

On October twenty-sixth, a statutory instrument signed by Minister of Natural Resources, Hugo Patt was gazetted. Through that S.I., the government extended the most recent land tax amnesty. The amnesty gave landowners who owe land taxes time to settle their debts beginning December first. The S.I. extends the deadline to June first instead of April seventh, granting wealthy landowners an additional month and three weeks. The programme has raised eyebrows because it benefits persons who own large parcels of land instead of small landowners who are struggling to pay taxes. Opposition Leader John Briceño says that the government could have gone a different path. He says that the Government should have taken backlands in place of taxes owed. 

 

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition

“There are different ways that you could have done this. Maybe small land owners could be given amnesty so that they can be able to make their payments but these huge land owners that own lands in thousands of acres I don’t think we should give them that amnesty because what we can do, and we did it when I was Minister of Natural Resources, is to call them in and tell them that they owe so much money and that they have all this land that they are not using so we are going to take land in lieu of taxes. So we should be able to find a way to help the small landowners but these land owners I don’t think we should give them this amnesty. I think we should use this opportunity to able to get lands back to the hands of the Belizean people.”

 

Reporter

“Would you be willing to give up land? I don’t know if you owe taxes but if that were the case would you be willing to subject yourself to something like that as you are proposing?”

 

John Briceño

“Well first of all I don’t own those kinds of huge tracks of land. But if I was a big land owner and I have no other option, I either find the money or to be able to gave back land to the government in lieu of the taxes that I owe.”

 

Reporter

“Your opponents have said probably not you but your family does.”

 

John Briceño

“No actually my family does not. They do not own land tracks of land. They had a lot of land they bought from B.S.I. when B.S.I. was transferring the cane lands to the farmers. My family took advantage of that and they owned a lot of land but most of those lands were sold by the banks. Actually, my brother and I bought one of those parcels form the Belize Bank.”


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