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Apr 30, 2021

Opposition Responds to Senator Courtenay on T.N.C.

During Monday’s Senate Budget Debate, Senator Eamon Courtenay raised the issue of the U.D.P. administration’s waiving taxes on land purchased by the Nature Conservancy for a period of fifty years.  According to Courtenay, this would have yielded over three hundred million dollars in revenue to the government of Belize.  He referred to the arrangement as a ‘secret agreement’ and a ‘nefarious deal.’  Today, those who were at the helm of the former administration had their say when the Opposition held a press conference in Belize City. Former Attorney General refuted Senator Courtenay’s claim that the agreement was done unlawfully because it was not brought before the National Assembly for approval. 


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, U.D.P. Senator

“So the Nature Conservancy come to us and say we have these people in the Yalbac area who together have two hundred and sixty-six thousand acres that they are willing to sell us for seventy-two million dollars. We will raise it that money to buy it from them and then we will form an N.G.O. to run the conservation of it for the benefit of the government and people of Belize. Senator Courtenay made great strides to mention that the Nature Conservancy’s attorney was Barrow and Williams at the time. What he failed to mention, which is true, is that his law firm, Courtenay, Coye and Company is the law firm representing the major landowners in the Yalbac area who are selling the land to the Nature Conservancy. So, he didn’t reveal that, but the public should know that. So when he calls this a nefarious deal, is he a part of this nefarious activity, supposedly? When the Nature Conservancy approached us, we said fine, no problem. A cabinet paper was done. And when that cabinet paper was done, Cabinet considered it and approved it in principle and indicated to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Environment and the minister of Natural Resources that we should go ahead and procure the execution of this arrangement.   It could not and was not brought to the National Assembly because it had already been dissolved. Senator Courtenay knows that the only time you bring land matters, or the transfer of land matters to the national assembly is when you are dealing with government land. So, if you are transferring, or dissolving or giving to the public five hundred acres of government land for example, you need national assembly approval. But no National Assembly approval was needed for this transfer because this is private land. You have the Nature Conservancy paying for the land from private owners to be transferred to an N.G.O.  There is no need for that to go to the National Assembly. So, for to indicate somehow that was done in violation of the law by not taking it to the National Assembly, that is disingenuous at the least.”


The Nature Conservancy has since issued a release noting that the use of tax incentives to encourage protection for natural areas has been an effective practice in Belize and around the world.  T.N.C. says the contribution this conservation effort will make to the economy is far higher than the value of the annual land taxes on the Belize Maya Property.

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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