Barrow could have reacquired the land in lieu of the unpaid land tax, says Lake I area rep Hon. Cordel Hyde
BELMOPAN, Tues. Aug. 21, 2019– At the sitting of the House of Representatives last Friday, it came as a surprise that Prime Minister Dean Barrow found it prudent to write off 90 million dollars that was owed to government by large landowners who had fallen behind in paying the government their land tax.
It is indisputable that that $90 million dollars could have been used to help alleviate poverty or for some other worthy social program that could have been of real benefit to the people.
The Prime Minister not only wrote off the $90 million, but he also introduced a motion for the government to borrow $100 million from Taiwan.
The Lake Independence area representative, Hon. Cordel Hyde, poured scorn on the Barrow government give-away bill in the form of land tax amnesty.
Hon. Hyde told the House, “This bill here has some benefits for small people, but far more benefits for big people. It’s the big land owners in this country who have not been paying their taxes, who have just sat back and waited for these land tax amnesties.
“This is the third time the government is doing it since 2010. They did it in 2010; I think 2013, and now 2019. At the last meeting when the Prime Minister first tabled this bill, he said that there was some ninety million dollars outstanding in taxes, land taxes.
“Of that ninety million, thirty big land owners owe half of that amount. Thirty big land owners owe forty-four million dollars. Thirty big land owners own a combined five hundred thousand acres of land. That’s an average of fifteen thousand acres per person.
“You see what I’m talking about. Some of these big land owners own eighty thousand acres, seventy-six thousand acres, thirty thousand acres, and then we have a situation where ordinary persons in this country, in Belize City, can’t get a fifty (feet) by seventy-five (feet) lot.
“It’s a very sweet deal because all they [these big landowners] do is wait for the land tax amnesty, and then they get a waiver on the interest, twenty-five percent break on the principal. The small man can’t get a fifty by seventy-five, and when he does get a fifty by seventy-five piece of swamp, if he doesn’t pay his taxes or develop that swamp in three years, ih get tek weh, you know. Tek weh [taken away]!”
“At the end of the day, this government has done nothing to try to collect the taxes every year, as opposed to just sitting back and waiting for it to accumulate and then come with a land tax amnesty. They’ve done nothing. This is an excellent opportunity to reacquire land in lieu of taxes owed, but you [the government] refuse to do that,” stated Hon. Hyde.