The three sugar cane producer associations in northern Belize are asking that the Government desist from legislating tax measures that would end exemptions for land clearing, crop dusting and harvesting. The Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association, the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association agree that this new tax measure will negatively affect the local cane farmers’ ability to compete on the global market. PUP Leader, John Briceno, agrees. Last night he met with the three associations and this morning he met with the Mennonite communities and agro-producers, and he says none of them are happy with Government’s decision.
John Briceno, Leader, PUP
“This is a stupid idea that the Prime Minister came when he is trying to tax the farmers. When it comes to the cane farmers by taxing harvesting of the cane it means that they are going to charge GST to harvesting by machine the harvester and the transportation the way it is worded that in effect would – in the north we are having a shortage of cane cutters and the ones that are still there the prices have gone up to cut the cane and to lead it. I mean it is hard work and because of that now the farmers are almost now at the point of losing money. So working with BSI they have a project where they bring in a harvester that would cut and load your cane and that has been reducing the cost by approximately $7 a ton. But once you start to include the GST to land preparations and then to cut it and to load it and then to transport it they believe that the little monies that they have been saving that is going to disappear under the GST that the Prime Minister has presented. Now either the Prime Minister is trying to trick us or he is desperate for money because this is only going to bring in about $3 million so I see no reason why we are going to put the agriculture community through this trauma for $3 million in taxes that they expect to collect. Maybe they put a $3 million to fool everybody and then they are collecting a lot more I know he is desperate for money, he has an insatiable appetite for tax money but that is a stupid idea that is going to hurt the productive sector, the very sector that is bringing in much needed hard currency into the country and I hope that he changes his mind and that he will decide to pull back that amendment.”
The PUP also objected to Government’s plan to apply GST to the purchase of data services.
John Briceno, Leader, PUP
“Ten years ago probably only a small group of the society was using data or a few businesses were using access to the internet but now everybody uses data from the richest of Belizeans to the poorest of Belizeans, from the biggest company to the smallest company or business in Belize everybody needs data and now the Prime Minister is adding another tax on them that is going to hurt the poor people but especially the middle class that feels that they are the ones that are feeling the tax burden in this country. So again it is not helping it’s only making it worse but he doesn’t want the money he doesn’t care what happens after that.”
The budget will be debated on Thursday and Friday.