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Minister Panton delivers Keynote Address at Galen University Graduation


 

On Sunday, May 22nd, 2016, Galen University graduated ninety-nine students at its 13th Commencement Exercises held at the Muffles College Auditorium in Orange Walk Town.

Graduates received degreesin various fields including Anthropology, Environmental Science, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Elementary Education, Accounting and Business Administration.

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Hon. Tracy Taegar- Panton, Minister of State in the Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade & Commerce, delivered the keynote address, highlighting the emerging socio-economic needs and challenges in the public and private sectors and how  Belizeans can combine their skills, talents and experiences to shape a new future.  The minister stressed the importance of diversifying our economic base using technology, promoting innovation and entrepreneurship as well as maintaining open dialogue to foster co-ordination and objectivity on matters of national importance.

Galen University is a private Belizean university chartered and licensed by the Government of Belize. Its mission is to provide excellence in undergraduate, graduate and professional education to prepare students to achieve their dreams and goals. The university is committed to providing an exciting and stimulating a learning environment, innovative and supportive teaching, scholarships and active service to the community – with a unique focus on sustainable development throughout its courses, programmes and service

Continue reading “Minister Panton delivers Keynote Address at Galen University Graduation”

BELTRAIDE makes presentation at National Women’s Forum hosted by Women’s Department


On May 19th 2016,  Ms. Lejia Melanie Gideon, General Manager, Enterprise and Innovation Division, Beltraide,   presented to a roomful of women from all over the country on the  role of the Small Business  Development Centre (SBDCBelize), Beltraide, in  creating economic prosperity through entrepreneurial development, business innovation and competitiveness.

Ms. Gideon shared an inspiring analogy, describing the process of opening a business to being similar to that of childbirth. She shared that in the same way an expecting mother awaits the birth of her child with eager anticipation and most times,worry, a new business owner worries over the success of his or her business. She explained that just as how family and friends offer guidance with  the care of the new child, Business Advisors at SBDCBelize  assist  business owners to nurture and grow their businesses.

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Lejia Melanie Gideon- General Manager, Enterprise and Innovation Division, Beltraide

In her presentation, Ms Gideon encouraged the women to explore their potential to become entrepreneurs by becoming a client of SBDCBelize and partaking in their free business advising sessions and year-long workshops offered currently in all districts.   She also shared information on the work of the Belize Training and Employment Centre (BTEC), another unit of Beltraide, which provides  various industry-specific job preparedness trainings in areas such as: Business Process Out-Sourcing (BPO), Front Desk, Bartending, Waitstaff, Basics of Care-Giving and more.

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She encouraged all women to take advantage of the opportunities offered to them by Beltraide and asked those interested to visit the offices or send an email guaranteeing that every query will be answered.

Beltraide, which operates within the portfolio of the Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce, aims to  enable a dynamic business environment  for Belize’s socio-economic growth  and looks forwards to an ongoing partnership with the Women’s Department which continues to encourage the economic development and empowerment of women through various programmes and projects.

The forum was an all day event and included other presentations from representatives of Credit Unions, the Cooperative Department, the Belize Enterprise for Sustainable Technology and many others.

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMPETITION DURING ECONOMIC RECESSION


During 2015, the effects of the 2008 financial crisis continued to impact negatively on the economic and social welfare of the CARICOM Member States and their citizens.
Unfortunately, another difficult year is ahead of us with many economic challenges anticipated both within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and extra-regionally. The global economy is projected to show modest growth when compared to 2015. However, at the regional level the situation remains uncertain with potential downside risks including falling global oil and commodity prices and bouts of financial volatility, which could result in lower than expected economic growth for Member States.
The CARICOM Competition Commission (CCC) is acutely aware that as economic improvement is slow in coming, and as domestic demand within the Member States remains weak, anti-competitive conduct such as collusive agreements and abuse of dominance are likely to abound in 2016. Additionally, unfair trade practices of large companies against small and medium-sized businesses may also harm the economies in the CSME, and ultimately reduce consumer welfare.

The CCC is also mindful that in difficult economic times, Governments sometimes believe that they are protecting consumers by restricting competition in key sectors such as utilities, health, public procurement and energy. This is done by preventing the entry of new players into markets through licensing and regulatory restrictions; regulating prices through price or margin controls; and limiting certain contracts only to local firms e.g. office furniture, and stationery and office supplies, drugs, and road works.
The CCC therefore views 2016 as a pivotal year in the enforcement of competition law, as well as advocacy for consumer protection in the region. This is with the unrelenting view that competition and consumer protection initiatives can help ease the difficulties faced by consumers as a result of anti-competitive conduct and austere Government policies implemented during periods of recession.

For 2016, drawing upon the work program which has already been approved by Member States, the CCC will continue to vigorously protect and maximise consumer welfare in the CARICOM region. Accordingly, the CCC intends to make consumers the focus of its message to Governments and parliamentarians, sector regulators, the business community, and other special interest groups such as the judiciary, media, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
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In this regard, the CCC will continue to work closely with National Consumer Protection Agencies and Consumer NGOs in CARICOM Member States on initiatives which commenced in 2015 such as:
• The establishment of national and regional consumer complaints databases and their effective uses for consumer protection enforcement;
• Research into priority areas for consumers such as financial services and utility regulation; and
• Consumer education.
With respect to competition policy, the CCC will establish the CARICOM Competition Network (CCN) in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat CSME Unit, and national competition authorities (NCAs) in the CSME, in 2016. The CCN will seek to encourage closer collaboration between NCAs on matters such as:
• Harmonization of investigation procedures;
• Administrative and legislative barriers to efficiency in competition investigations;
• Information exchange;
• Development of CSME Product Market Indicators; and
• Competition Training and Education programme.

In conclusion, as the designated regional advocate for competition and consumer protection, the CCC takes this opportunity to encourage Governments and sector regulators to view this period of financial constraints as an opportunity to implement or enforce policies that maximise competition among existing operators; facilitate entry and investment of new entrants into markets; and modernise the legislative and regulatory framework for competition and consumer protection. For its part, the CCC will continue to promote and lay the groundwork for the principles of competition law and policy and the effectiveness of consumer protection enforcement in the region.

Further information about the work of the CCC, can be accessed by contacting admin@ccc.sr with your questions or by utilising the query facility on http://www.caricomcompetitioncommission.com

Bowen and Bowen inaugurates state of the art bottling line facility


 

A new multi-million, state of the art soft drink bottling facility was inaugurated on Tuesday, 13th January by Bowen & Bowen Ltd as part of the company’s efforts to increase its competitive edge to secure its fair share of the local market, which in recent years has been flooded by an expanding number of imported brands.

The beverage market in Belize is becoming more competitive with products now being imported from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

To maintain its market share, Bowen and Bowen Ltd decided to upgrade its soft drink manufacturing and beer fermentation and bottling capacity at its facilities in Ladyville. This investment is mainly in the form of new bottling equipment in line with the requirements that the international holders (Coca Cola, Fanta and Guinness) are demanding.

 

The project will cost approximately Bz 79 million and will be implemented in three main phases over a period five years  with the soft drink bottling facility being on the top list.

B & B employee at the switch - Copy

According to Michael Bowen, President and CEO of Bowen and Bowen, the new facility is valued at  approximately Bz $40 million and can process 22,000 bottles per hour.

Bowen and Bowen is  the producer of Lighthouse Lager, Belikin Beer and Stout, Belikin Premium, Guinness Stout, Coca Cola, Sprite, Fanta, Crystal Water and Crystal Fruit Beverage.

At the inauguration ceremony, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said the investment was emblematic of the company’s commitment to producing the finest products for the local market and the creation of jobs for Belizeans. He offered his congratulations to the management of Bowen and Bowen Ltd and reiterated his Government’s unwavering support for the project.

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Hon. Dean Barrow

 

Under the Government of Belize’s Fiscal Incentive Programme, the Bowen and Bowen expansion project was granted a development concession, which is being administered by the  Aftercare Unit of the Belize Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE), to assist the company to increase the feasibility for the  full implementation of its expansion plan.

BELTRAIDE’s mission is to enhance Belize’s prosperity by fostering investment confidence, entrepreneurship, business growth and innovation. In addition to its main functions, BELTRAIDE also operates the Small Business Development Centre (SBDCBelize) and the Belize Training Employment Centre (BTEC), which are based in Belize City.

Since its establishment in 2011 over 8,000 local and international businesses have benefited from BELTRAIDE services.

 

 

 

The inaugural ceremony was attended by over 2,000 company employees, government officials, members of the House of Representatives  and Ministers of Government,  including Hon Tracy Taegar, Minister of State in the Ministry of Economic Development, Petroleum, Investment, Trade and Commerce. Minister Taegar is also the Minister responsible for Beltraide.

Members of cabinet
(L-R) Hon. Tracy Taegar- Panton, Hon. Beverly Castillo, Hon. Godwin Hulse, Hon. Anthony Martinez, Hon. Michael Finnegan 

 

 

 

Prime Minister’s New Year’s Message 2016


Prime Minister delivers New Year’s message highlighting  a year of great accomplishments!

Prime Minister’s New Year’s Message 2016

My Fellow Belizeans:

There were many things to be grateful for in 2015.

We were spared from hurricanes; there were no social upheavals; we steered our way through the complexities of the relationship with Guatemala; and politically we capped everything with the peaceful and historic general elections of November.

Economically it was also a good year. Disease and the long drought played havoc with shrimp and grains. And an earlier than expected decrease in the export price was unwelcome news for our sugar cane farmers. But tourism saw continuing record advances, cost of living fell markedly, and there was an overall spurt in the rate of employment.

Our public works program reached its high point, so that there was tremendous infrastructural development and huge knock-on effects in jobs, income and spending. Government and quasi Government salary increases, commercial bank liquidity, greater access to credit and lower interest rates, also helped to boost consumer confidence and well-being.

Looking ahead to 2016, I say at once that the landscape is changed and the dynamics will be different. But I also say immediately that there are still multiple reasons for optimism, and that we see our way clear to another successful year.

Among the challenges that we will confront, the reduction in PetroCaribe flows is perhaps the most pronounced. With the dizzying fall in oil prices, we expect to get much less from these Venezuela loan funds than we did in 2015. And already 2015’s intake was only half of 2014.

This, combined with the drying up of earnings from our own petroleum exports, will put a severe crimp in Government revenues. It is what, in the face of the coming step-up in SuperBond payments and the Compensation Award expected to be handed down towards the middle of the year, has caused us to raise the duty on

fuel imports. The CIF price of these is so low that we were able to judge the increase a bearable burden. And with this, which is the only tax measure we will take, Government will be able to meet debt obligations and pay for expansion in services, particularly regarding national security and the acquisition of assets such as the three BDF helicopters and the two latest model Coast Guard boats.

Our trademark infrastructure drive will also continue, though now there will be a mix of funding sources. There is enough that we have set aside from the PetroCaribe days of plenty, to complete the countrywide BIL sporting projects (such as the Belize City Center) and the tourism road network improvements that we began in the last quarter of 2015. So construction proceeds apace on the Lamanai Road, the Cristo Rey/San Antonio Road, and the North Ambergris Road to the new Efrain Guerrero international Airport. IFIs including CDB, IDB, OFID, and the Kuwaiti Fund, will in turn finance the rehabilitation of the Philip Goldson Highway from the Airport junction to Belize City; the new Macal River crossing; the Hummingbird Highway; and the Belmopan to Benque redo.

OPEC/OFID will also fund, and their Board has just approved, a completely new PGIA Link Road with a bridge over the Belize River and extending from behind Gentrac to around Mile 8 on the George Price Highway. As well, there is the recently announced UK Government Caribbean Grant initiative. Belize’s share of this new aid endowment is in the region of 135 million Belize dollars to be spent, we propose, principally on the Road to Caracol.

The point is that in 2016 there will continue to be public infrastructure work and jobs aplenty, with all the multiplier benefits to our people that this entails.

In terms of the larger economy and the private and productive sector, the outlook is just as promising.

 

In agriculture, the grain farmers have taken full advantage of Government’s tax and duty moratorium on all irrigation equipment to reinvest in the sector with a view to expanded, post-drought production.

The poultry industry has recovered from the avian flu, and shrimp harvesting is expected by mid year to rebound completely from disease to take full advantage of continuing high export prices.

In citrus, factory consolidation should increase efficiencies, and external demand and payment for our by-products remain firm.

 

Sugar is not currently fetching the optimum returns in the European market that we would like. Nevertheless, the huge Santander investment in a factory and cane fields in the Cayo District has now come to fruition. Grinding operations are set to start by February. And the initial amount of 350 thousand tonnes of cane to be milled, should go up in year 2 to as much as 800 thousand tonnes. Apart from the foreign exchange earnings and permanent employment that the coming of sugar to the West brings, Santander is also negotiating a power purchase agreement with BEL to supply cheap co-generation energy to the local grid.

Overall, then, and despite the volatility inherent in the commodities sector and the temporary hole left in banana production by the suspension of Meridian farms, our agriculture is again proving its resilience and viability.

But it is in tourism that our prospects continue to shine brightest. In September, October and November of 2015, overnight arrivals exceeded the 2014 numbers for the same three months by 19.2%, 22.1% and 33% respectively. With the new Southwest and Copa airline services from the US and South America to Belize already launched; and with the scheduled commencement of direct flights from Canada in 2016, we expect to maintain and better the record breaking, year-over-year increases in stayover tourism.

 

On the Cruise side, there was a 9.2% passenger jump this November, the last full month of 2015 for which we already have the statistics, over November of 2014. And on that front the headline news for 2016 is twofold: NCL’s Harvest Caye project becomes fully operational by April and brings with it two thousand jobs for Southern Belize; and the Supreme Court ruling on Belize City Port exclusivity-or lack thereof-clears the way for us to greenlight a new, Old Capital alongside docking facility.

This latter will undoubtedly mean a significant ramping up of cruise calls via the country’s main harbour, and completes an overall tourism picture that we can paint in colors of unambiguous optimism.

The new cruise port will be built by the private sector in some form of partnership with Government, and we expect to develop the Commerce Bight container port in Stann Creek using the same model. Indeed, so committed are we to public-private partnerships that we will transition our special purpose vehicle Belize Infrastructure Limited to be Government’s agent to facilitate them. BIL will therefore be designated GOB’s Public-Private Partnership Unit.

More generally, our Administration has declared the need for Government to improve service delivery to the private sector and the citizenry as a whole. Accordingly, we also intend to appoint an official Monitor in 2016 to work with the Civil Service to ensure quality control in Government’s interaction with the public. The Monitor will as well have responsibility to review the implementation pace and effectiveness of all Government’s manifesto commitments.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Belizeans:

It is no coincidence that the 2015 general elections were fixed for the year’s last month but one. The timing was deliberate and the idea was that the new Administration should use December to settle in, then greet 2016 with a burst of freshness, energy and enthusiasm. I believe, then, that the symbiosis of new mandate and New Year will be not just symbolic, but a real spur to action. I also believe that we are well positioned by the basic soundness of our economy and our stewardship to make good on the explicit and implicit promises of our refreshed compact with the people. And most of all I believe that our sense of history, duty and destiny will give wing to our efforts now at following extraordinary opportunity with extraordinary results.

 

For all these reasons I invite everyone to feel confident that this time we will make more meaningful than ever our salutation that rings through the ages: “Happy New Year”, and God bless Belize.

 

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