Belize City Council holds Economic Summit

[Linked Image] Another hot button issue is the recession, which was officially announced by Prime Minister Dean Barrow on October twenty-ninth. When that announcement was made, it was not followed by what will be done to weather the economic storm but everyone has been tightening their belt. Today at the Queens Room at the Princess Hotel, the City Council hosted an economic summit. It was agreed by the panelists that the old capital can get past this one, but that there is need for a national approach. Jose Sanchez stopped by the event and has this report.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The recession that has hit the country has not gone unnoticed by the Belize City Council. Revenue collection has been, to say the least, difficult. That is why Belize City Mayor Zenaida Moya Flowers has taken up the task to host an economic summit for the business sector.

Zenaida Moya Flowers, Belize City Mayor

"There is a slowdown in our economy. It's affecting businesses. At the council we fully understand that because we also have to deal with trade and deal with trade licensing, whereby we see that some people are not coming back in, some people are saying that it's difficult on them, some are telling me outright that they are having to close their operations, they are having to reduce their operations. New businesses that felt that they were going to open are saying they will have to hold back. This particular summit is geared towards the business community to get their recommendations, to also discuss along with the panelists ways to how we can hopefully devise certain strategies or adapt certain polices."

The panel discussion on the economic and social status of Belize City included addresses of an array of business persons and senator for businesses Godwin Hulse.

Godwin Hulse, Senator

"My position comes from the productive sector and I'm saying that many of the services that we have, as I pointed out in my presentation, rides on the back of production so we need to get the productive sector going, especially the agricultural productive sector. There is great demand for food right now. The prices of food around the world are shooting up. That's not affected by the recession; people have to eat. We have the land, the people, the equipment so we can expand the productive sector but to do that we need cheap money, we need affordable money; money that is going to allow us to produce, pay our bills in a timely manner but at a rate that we can afford."

Radisson front man Jim Scott wore his cap as a director of Chamber of Commerce. To answer the question of whether or not the old capital can get out of the economic slump, Scott said "Yes, we can."

James Scott, Board of Directors, Chamber of Commerce

"You said that's my motto in order for us to use that then we have to say "yes we can" and I think it's time that we roll up our sleeves, all of us, and become more efficient, get back to the basics of hard work and enable our city and our country to have a better place to want to conduct business, to want to visit. I think there are so many positive things; it's not all negative. A lot of people in the city feel that taxes are not being collected properly, taxes are not being levied in an equitable fashion. So there are some suggestions which will be heard soon that might allow a more efficient and equitable means of taxation where property tax and trade license taxes are concerned."

Jose Sanchez

"You mentioned there are things happening within the industry right now; good things. What are some of those things?"

Jim Scott

"Well, let's start with the Global Marketing Initiative that is being led by the Belize Hotel Association. Essentially it's probably the biggest national travel shows of Europe, North America and Latin America, that has ever been represented from Belize."

Both panelists believe that central government should now take the lead and host a national economic summit.

Godwin Hulse

"In fact I thought it should have started at the national level at the Ministry of Economic Development and I made that known in my presentation. This is a good initiative for the city but we are a unitary state; we are not a federal state and therefore Central Government's policies affect the cities and towns."

Jim Scott

"We're talking about national issues but the ministry of Economic Development might take this opportunity to take this at a macro level, the national level and have a more focused panel and hopefully, the panel if it does go to the next level, will have a shared vision as to the course that needs to be paved for a more productive Belize."

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

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