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Dec 17, 1999

Last House Meeting for 1999

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The House of Representatives held a special sitting today to meet for one last time in 1999. The Belmopan City Council Bill was introduced following the residents’ decision last month to become a city, the Dangerous Goods Act was amended to prohibit the delivery of butane gas in bobtail trucks in developed areas after two accidents and a Border Management Agency was established to improve services for both visitors and local travelers. Among the questions raised by the Opposition was the amount of sales tax collected so far and why Great Britain cancelled Belize’s debt relief. The Prime Minister Said Musa says the sales tax is meeting expectations and to say that Belize lost out on any funding from Britain is simply not true.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition, U.D.P.

“Will the Minister of Finance say how much money was collected from sales tax for the first nine months of the financial year?”

Said Musa, Prime Minister

“Madame Speaker, since we have not yet completed nine months of the financial year, which would be December the thirty-first, 1999 for the benefit of the Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition Leader’s question makes no sense. I can tell him, however, and the nation, that according to the financial returns available from the sales tax office, up to the end of October, 1999, the amount of thirty-five million seven hundred fifty-nine thousand four hundred five dollars was collected in sales tax. This account for seven months constitutes fifty-eight percent of the expected revenue budgeted for the fiscal year of sixty-two million dollars. In other words Madame Speaker, the sales tax collection is on target.

Madame Speaker, in a press release dated December the fifteenth, two days ago, The British High Commission made the following statement. “The British High Commission would like to make it clear that the recent increase in British bilateral aid to Belize was granted in place of debt relief under the Commonwealth initiative. If debt relief had in fact been granted no additional bilateral aid would have been available.” This concise, diplomatic way of saying to the Opposition Leader, and his newspaper that when you said the British Government canceled debt relief for Belize thus depriving Belize of six million dollars that was not only political mischief, it was simply a lie.” (clapping)

Musa continued that the six million dollars, or one point seven million pounds was approved as an additional grant and will be used to benefit poor communities in Belize River Valley, Orange Walk and Toledo Districts with water systems, school textbooks and educational facilities. The Opposition also asked about the cost of the Buy Belizean campaign and which media houses were given the contracts. Minister of Budget Planning and Management Ralph Fonseca was not able to finish his answer to that question due to Mesopotamia Area Representative Michael Finnegan’s impatience and eventual withdrawal of the entire question. However, Minister Fonseca did manage to say that the government’s initial study showed that in 1998 Belizeans spent about eight million dollars per month across the borders. To a follow-up question about the number of Belizeans now going to Chetumal, Minister of National Security Jorge Espat cited immigration figures which indicated that since the campaign, which he says cost two hundred seventy-one thousand dollars, there has been a steady decline in the number of Belizeans going to Chetumal. He says their data indicates that there were forty thousand fewer visits to Chetumal from January to August of this year than in the same period in 1998. An update was also given by the Minister of Agriculture Dan Silva on the Agriculture Natural Resources Institute, ANRI whose students complained last week that they lack basic services. Silva says B.E.L. is working on the power problem and they should have electricity within two months. He says the school will be receiving transportation and an increase in staff shortly.

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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