On February 21, 2013, the Mayor of Belize City effectively declared war on the residents of northern Belize by expressing his intent to toll the portion of the Philip Goldson Highway leading into Belize City. Thankfully, the Minister of Works (the Hon. Rene Montero) has stepped in and put an end (at least for the time being) to the Mayor’s plan. The residents of northern Belize should remain alert none-the-less, because CitCo may still be plotting on how to get its hands on their money.
The Mayor, in attempting to justify his taxation on the residents of northern Belize, declared that non-residents of Belize City pour into his city, use its services and pay nothing for it. Wow! It appears that the Mayor has forgotten that his council receives an annual subvention from GOB. Where does he think that money comes from?
The levying of what is in effect a Belize City entrance fee is tantamount to economic warfare against the rest of the country! Imagine what kind of Belize we would have if every municipality began charging non-residents for the use of “their services”. Belize is a single country and citizens should be free to go to every part without having any Mayor dipping his hands into their pockets.
Interestingly, in response to the legitimate concern raised by some, that in order to toll a thoroughfare there must be an alternate route, the Mayor cited the San Pedro Ambergris Caye and the Orange Walk Town examples. However, none of these can be properly compared to what he is attempting to do.
In the case of the “Toll Bridge,” the toll was meant to recoup the cost of a bridge built by Central Government on a national highway; the toll is not a charge by the Mayor of OW for use of “services.” It may be helpful to note that the cost of the bridge has long since been recouped, but the toll continues; and it has now formed a part of the recurrent revenues of GOB.
In the case of San Pedro you have an intra-municipal toll (that is the equivalent of charging a toll to cross Belcan, BelChina or the Swing Bridge), not a toll to enter San Pedro! The San Pedro toll, apart from helping to repay the loan from Sir Barry, was also a condition for the support of the “northerners” who did not want the “southerners” invading their space. The idea of the $10 toll was therefore to discourage cross-river traffic. This is exactly what the “Bradley Toll” will do: discourage cross-river traffic to the detriment of Belize City businesses.
Strangely, we have heard nothing from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry regarding the “Bradley Toll.”
At a time when there is already a growing divide between Belize City and the rest of this country, Mayor Bradley would be well advised to reexamine his punitive view of the rest of us. Yes, the entire country deserves good infrastructure, but that is why we pay taxes. What we need is not more taxes, but rather, better management of current revenues, coupled with sound investment by GOB in the right sectors (including infrastructure).
The people of Belize deserve a decent highway as envisioned by the Mayor, but to suggest that every time we demand that government improve our infrastructure we must pay “additional” taxes seems wholly ridiculous to me when they keep squandering the taxes we are already paying.
Finally, let me say to the residents of Ladyville/Lords Bank that they should seriously consider becoming Belize’s next town. I shall tell you more on that soon.
Major Lloyd Jones (Ret’d)