Ray: I would not be so quick to state that no more relief supplies and
equipment are needed. I have no knowledge, being here in California, but I
have been watching the message board and what I am hearing is that they ARE
needed. While food and water do not appear to be a problem any longer,
there is so much devastation that massive amounts of hardware (the old
fashioned kind, you know, hammers, nails, etc.) and construction supplies
(and particularly, roofing) ARE needed on both islands.
The postings on the hurricane message board are heavily weighted towards
expats and resort and hotel owners, and family/friends of same in the US; of
course, these people do not need relief (though I continue to maintain that
they should not be taxed for rebuilding what was there 10 days ago). Less
attention is given to the large number of ordinary working people who lived
in little wood houses that have been either severely damaged or
substantially or totally destroyed, and for whom simply getting through the
day is now a major chore. Many of these people live from paycheck to
paycheck and had no insurance. Imagine if you have no roof, no windows, and
you have a family. Imagine that you have no furniture, no refrigerator, NO
WORKING TOILET, all your clothing and personal supplies are destroyed, and
that you have 3 little kids, some in diapers. These people need immediate
help so that they can start rebuilding their homes immediately and they
should not have to be taxed, and yes, it would help if the building supplies
for these people (not gringo hotel owners) were DONATED and I hope that
people keep donating for that purpose.
The info I am seeing posted from those who are in direct contact with the
people whose homes and lives are most devastated does not jibe with your
statement that no more relief of any kind is needed. Further, I have seen
no facts that support your suggestion that most of the relief supplies being
sent to the US are being sent to private individuals. In fact, the cartons
stuck in customs are all addressed to the Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker
Town Boards (or so the shippers all say; and I am aware of no facts that
would cause me to believe otherwise.
As to the issue of "starving the government," the government surely did not
plan for a hurricane and a massive windfall from import duties due to the
resulting destruction and need to rebuild, and should not receive one.
Perhaps a total moratorium on duty is neither feasible nor fair, but there
are ways to differentiate between that which should be dutied because its
normal purchasing activity and that which should be exempt because people
are only re-creating that which has been destroyed. I came up with a few
suggestions, and I am sure that the GOB can come up with even better ways to
differentiate if it wants to. Certainly, relief and rebuilding goods that
are DONATED to GOVERNMENT, COMMUNITY or CHARITY organizations in Belize
should be exempt from duty.
Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law.