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Real Estate Brokers Meet To Discuss Way Forward

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize is meeting at the Jungle Pavilion of Old Belize for their 4th quarterly meeting for this year. The association made up of brokers, bankers, developers and real estate agents main focus is to create sustainable real estate businesses in Belize. President of the Association Hugo Moguel explains.

Hugo Moguel; President of Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize

"Basically it is to give a run down to our members to let them know what we have been working on, what the current situation is and open the floor for discussions on how they feel about things. Given the current global financial crisis, a lot of things have slowed down very much and we are in a transition phase right now with a new administration, and so we know that they need to get their footing in place as well. But our job is to enforce how important real estate is in Belize right now.

There is still a lot of interest in Belize; Belize still looks good on paper, but we need to get the investors in and when the investors come, we need to make their investments easy, safe and painless, and that is the major challenge right now. Our main market is North America which is right now suffering the most. We have a good opportunity to survive and to do well in these though times, but we need to address these policy issues right away."

Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation Michael Singh was the guest speaker at the luncheon today. In his address he focused on the importance of driving investment and stimulating economic growth.

Mike Singh; CEO Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation

"Tourism is very closely related to real estate, everything that we do in tourism promotes Belize as a destination which also promotes in turn Belize as an investment destination and in turn Belize as a destination for retirees and for people who wants to relocate. So it goes hand in hand and I have always felt that our Tourism Ministry reaches out to the industry at large and to ensure that we work in a partnership. The most important thing is that we felt that we needed to strengthen our industry governance, coming up with a new legislation and a new structure and new institutions that will allow the industry to grow. We also felt that there is a dire need to focus on planning and zoning initiatives, because those are some of the things that hurt development in tourism as well as development in real estate and in residential type developments."

One way in which the ministry hopes to push economic growth is through a Tourism Development Trust that will be used to invest in tourism zones. Singh explains how this will work.

Mike Singh; CEO Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation

"The Tourism Development Trust is really the engine that will generate the economic growth. It will be a government owned trust fund and if you guys know anything about how Mexico developed, Mexico in 1974 formed an organization called FONATUR. FONATUR acquired a small piece of beach property in Yucatan which is now called Cancun, and what they did was to take the whole of that property and come out with a master plan, and they themselves went out and raised the initial capital for infrastructure and attracted investment and kept on top of the management of that zone, and today it now generates $4 billion in revenue for the Mexican Government and has something like 60,000 hotel rooms. Now we do not want to develop anything of that magnitude and we don't want to see anything of that scope. But the infrastructure and the legislation that allowed it to happen is something that we want to adopt so that we can develop our own home grown style of developing special tourism zones and residential areas within Belize. So the idea behind it is we are really focusing on planning, developing, making sure we organize and making sure that our institutions will be able to oversee this planning and to ensure compliance on a long term basis."

But Moguel believes that with the help of the new administration AREBB will be able to stimulate growth and investment in Belize through real estate and other developments.

Hugo Moguel; President of Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize

"Major accomplishments were done when we started out with the previous administration. We had through our actions reduced the stamp duties for transfer tax and purchasing on property tax from 15% for non-Belizean buyers to 5% of up to BZ$20,000 and that's across the board, so Belizeans got a good deal with that as well as a way to encourage further investment. When the GST was coming in to play, they wanted to attach a 10% on top of the 15%, so you are looking at a 25% above the price; we would not be competing with the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean industry would have failed. There is a large resource of direct foreign investment that we need at this point. Further to that, we have been lobbying with the municipal bodies letting them know our plans and letting them know that we want to be their partners in Belize."

Other highlights of the meeting were the presentation of the association's annual financial report and discussions surrounding the proposed increase in Income Tax.