Much of today's house meeting was spent chatting about China. But, apart from the 50 million US dollar loan from the Taiwanese, there were some very important pieces of legislation passed.
One that caught our attention is the National Liquified Petroleum Gas Project Bill. It's a public private partnership, a state-protected monopoly which will supply all the LPG - or what we call butane to Belize. It's a major shift from the Mexican supplier which owns all the major butane companies.
Now, the issue of butane affects almost every household, so it's being looked at very closely - from the shareholders of the company - called National Gas Company - to the 15 year term of the license, to the rate of return.
PUP Deputy Leader Cordel Hyde says he distrusts monopolies:
Hon. Cordel Hyde, PUP, Lake Independence
"I think essentially what they are doing with this bill is establishing a monopoly and as captive a market as there is, eighty-three percent of all households use butane. It's as essential as water, as toilet paper, as pack bread. I see there is some guarantee of a rate of return to the investors. I would have wanted to see a guarantee in terms of a commitment to the people that the cost of butane would be less. I don't see that in this."
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Madam Speaker, this is a Gilly Canton, Marion Usher, and a steller roster of PUPs who have chartered this project and who have come to us for support. I dont know about a UDP, so I think you need to be careful in terms of how you try to throw stones. You talk about it's being a monopoly, it will have the monopoly in terms of the importation, but how is that not better than the current situation where there is an oligopoly and where basically it is one Mexican common denominator that owns all the principal retailers or certainly the wholesalers. So we are in hoc to a Mexican concern. This will ensure that it is a Belizean concern, a public private company that will have the exclusive in terms of the importation. We, the government, whichever government will be on the board to ensure that in fact it is brought in in a way that will see that what is happening to us now where the Mexicans all get together and basically, it's one common ownership you know, whether dehn name Z, whether dehn name BWEL, whatever, and they hold us to ransom. They come and they say this is the price you will allow us to charge, otherwise we wahn stop importing the gas. So this, if it does nothing else takes us out of that stranglehold that these foreigners have, on not just government, on the people of this country. And absolutely, with this National Gas Company, you will see a lowering of prices to the consumer. I repeat if you want to get political it is controlled by principals, huge personalities of the People's United Party, we have looked well pass color, because we think it is in the national interest, in the interest of the consumer."
Shareholders of the company include Marion Usher's company, M & M Limited, Gilly Canton, Bowen and Bowen, Ga Roe and Sons Limited and BEDCO Limited which is owned by the Bedrans out of Cayo. They are all minority shareholders and the largest shareholder is a mystery company from the US called BWT holdings LLP.