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May 23, 2022

Entertainers and Artists Present Concerns to House Committee over Trade Licensing Bill

This morning inside the National Assembly Building, a House Committee Meeting was convened to discuss the Trade Licensing Bill 2022, chaired by Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Development, Elvia Vega. The meeting went well into the afternoon, with presentations by several members of the entertainment industry. At the heart of the matter is a joint concern of how the bill, in its current form, will stifle the industry. Marion Ali was at the National Assembly to talk to the relevant parties and brings you this report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Present at the meeting to share their concerns over the Trade Licensing Bill were representatives from the entertainment sector. Vice President of the Music Industry Association of Belize, James Sanker, explained to News Five what their gripe is with the Bill.


James Sanker

James Sanker, Vice President, Music Industry Association of Belize

“The Bill in its present form doesn’t benefit the artists nor the government.  It needs to be re-looked and I’m saying very clear on national TV. There needs to be extensive consultation on how this industry works before we get to that part for a fee. Other important thing, no other country is doing this. This is not best practice anywhere in the world.”

Dena Halsall, a base player with  Ascenthium Band, Musa Shaeed, a representative of the Creole Council, and River of Fire also expressed their concerns to us.

Dena Halsall

Dena Halsall, Base Player, Asenthium Band

“Would this be a great barrier of entry to those new musicians that are coming up? Will they only see us as hobbyists due to the fact that they don’t think that we could even have enough finance generated to pay a trade license? And all of those things mixing between the lack of music in the education system and the way that it’s perceived socially to be a musician, it’s concerning. We are at the point to eloquently project what we feel should be the future of our industry and we hope that the Government listens.”


Musa Shaeed

Musa Shaeed, Representative, Belize Kriol Council

“Something has to come out of it. If nothing comes out of it, it’s the artists’ and musicians’ and entertainers’ fault in the nation. My take is basically we as the artists’ community have to be grounded in who we are and what we want, and also, what we want to represent. Our artist community is very confused in that aspect. We don’t know what we want to represent, how we want to represent it, and where we want to represent it and that gives room for confusion; that gives room for taxation on something that is not really taxable. And like I told them up there, I can’t pay you for something that I don’t make.”


River of Fire

River of Fire, Represented Tony Wright & Assoc. for Belizean Artists First

“We are of the opinion did no research and from their own admission inside the consultation, they admitted that they did not really consult with musicians at all. Musicians and artists in this country, the majority of the times, work on a kinda like not really a pay but a stipend. We don’t get a fee. If we have five band members, the best we could say is okay, five hundred dollars for five band members. But then we have to take into account all the things that it takes for that person to make it to that show. And they’re talking about a group setting a show for five hundred dollars and then they have to pay two hundred out of it. So then what is the group going to make? And then they’re talking about – the next aspect of this whole Bill – is per performance. Trade license is supposed to be yearly fee, people. It doesn’t come by per performance.”


Marion Ali

“Are you willing to pay by a percentage per year?”


River of Fire

“I’m willing to pay as long as I have a business that’s operating, but we don’t have a business. We’re a fledgling industry. We do not have a functional music industry.”


We waited until almost all the House Committee members had left to try to get a comment from Chairlady, Minister Vega, but she had not emerged from the building by the time we left. Today was the first occasion that parliament allowed the media inside the meeting. Clerk of the National Assembly, Eddie Webster, indicated that hereinafter, these sessions will be open to the media.


Marion Ali for News Five.

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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