Last week, fuel prices took another jump at the pumps. Prior to the recent increase, at a press conference, Prime Minister Dean Barrow warned that Belize is in for a rough ride with regards to fuel prices which are being affected by external factors; factors that the Government cannot control. However, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) says that Government has control over taxes levied on fuel and it has called on the Government to review its fuel tax strategy. The BCCI is calling on the government to lower the taxes on fuel and undertake a comprehensive trade and tax reform. Such reform is not an uncommon request to make says the PUP’s Cayo South Area Representative Julius Espat who weighed in on the matter today.
Julius Espat, Cayo South Area Representative: “To ask for tax reform is always something positive, you have to analyze it. Is the taxing system we have in place working for government and for the people of Belize? I believe that at times we are taxing the wrong people I believe at times we are taxing the wrong things, for example higher taxation of fuel affects us all negatively, it affects the productive sector- if you have to pay more for fuel that means that your product will be more expensive and so I think government is like outing fires that’s what I found out in the Public Accounts Committee. It’s just a matter of outing fires so if this works today we’ll go with that, if that works tomorrow we are going with that and that’s not the way to run a country. I believe we have to make a conscientious analysis of our tax structure to see if it is working for the benefit of the people. At the end of the day we have to understand it’s not ministers that we have to be catering for or a party in government that we have to be catering for. The Public Service should be catering all the services and everything they do for the benefit of the people that is the whole concept that when I got into politics I thought that was what we were here to do and I’m disappointed that that is not how it works. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed. Countries that have changed it have shown that they are wealthy, the quality of life is better for their citizens, Singapore is a clear example of that. They made a conscientious decision that they will try to eliminate corruption in government. They made a conscientious effort that they will look at their tax structure to see how it benefits the country, they listen to people. The consultation concept that we have is government decides and then tells you what they are doing and that’s not consultation. If you do real consultation you will get in the people and take their advice, at least try it and we don’t seem to want to do any of those and so anything that has to deal with analyzing the way we are governed I am all for it.”
The BCCI is also recommending that the Government ‘aggressively collect from and punish tax evaders, reduce recurrent expenditures and eliminate waste in public spending”.