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Aug 9, 2006

City and Central Government discuss cash crunch

Story PictureThe Belize Mayors Association put it all on the table … the country’s municipalities are in the red and party colours have nothing to do with it. Via press release, the Association listed a six point agenda of urgent requests, calling on the P.U.P. Central Government to increase revenue flows into the municipalities, namely through bigger subventions and by assigning traffic management to the councils. And the people with the biggest beef are those on the Belize City Council, who have put most of the blame for non-payment to its contractors squarely on Belmopan’s shoulders. Late this afternoon, Prime Minister Said Musa called a meeting at his Queen Street office in an effort to get a handle on the situation. Present were Minister of Local Government Jose Coye, Chief Executive Officer Margaret Ventura, Director of Local Government Eugene Palacio, Mayor Zenaida Moya and Deputy Mayor Wayne Usher. According to Moya, with the sanitation companies threatening massive lay-offs due to non-payment of bills, the city’s financial situation has deteriorated to an all time low.

Zeniada Moya, Belize City Mayor
?This Friday we need to pay them something, bottom line Janelle. We met with the P.M. and he has indicated that he will speak to the B.T.B. He will call them so I should receive a call either later today or tomorrow, whereby they will inform us because they will try to get the B.T.B. or ask the B.T.B. to continue paying us what they were paying us before as it pertains to the head tax. So that is something positive and I must say if that works out it would be much appreciated. If we can get the head tax amounts and something from the Port of Belize, in terms of revenue sharing, we feel that can be a sustainable solution to ensuring that the operations of the council is sustainable. All we?re looking at, we are not looking at a short term thing. Short term right now would be the fact that the P.M. would be calling the B.T.B. to ask them to restore the portion that they were giving previous to April, that is the short term of it. We feel that the rest, that I have discussed, is something that can make our council sustainable.?

Jose Coye, Minister of Local Government
?We?re looking at what I would call an immediate term solution rather than a short term solution for them. Certainly we will try to get them over that hurdle. But what we want to do for the medium to the long term is for us to be able to look at what it costs the city to provide the services that legally required to provide. Then we look at the revenue base of the city, what they are now able to collect from their taxes. It is the deficit that we want to look at now, and see how the government can have revenue sharing with them based on that deficit.?

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
?What would be central government?s message tonight to S.E.L. … B.M.L. ? other clean-up crews across the country and contractors around the country, who are may not be getting paid, because municipal are saying: we just don?t have the money…?

Jose Coye
?That the central government will be assisting. The central government has committed itself to assist. To deal with the immediate problem, as I mentioned, and then we go into medium to long term sustainability for the city.?

We understand tonight that there are also plans to restructure a Belize City Council loan at the Bank of Nova Scotia … payments toward which were being deducted from the municipality’s subvention. Sanitation workers met this afternoon at the Constitution Park to discuss the situation. This afternoon’s meeting was in addition to one called by the Mayors Association for next Wednesday with the Prime Minister.

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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