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BBB squares off its position on the recalculation of the debt

The Belize Business Bureau says that its statements today are in part premised on a discussion held with Prime Minister John Briceño. The sense our newsroom has gotten is that the business owners in those discussions are excited that, at the very least, GOB is willing to entertain these requests and suggestions. The Prime Minister, we are told, seems amenable to examining the issues further, including an application for duty-free status through BELTRAIDE. However, we stress that these are mere proposals. We asked the BBB’s President Arturo Lizarraga whether these are just more unrealistic, unachievable promises. 

Arturo Lizarraga, President, Belize Business Bureau: “You have to blame, or you have to embrace the Chamber’s willingness to want to wait and protect big businesses on that not implenentng the $5. Business Bureau’s role is very clear. Give them the 5 bucks. Stop delaying. Stop. It’s just like the Free Trade agreement with Mexico. These guys delay.  Don’t know who they’re working for or what purpose they’ll serve but we want to have. DOn’t you want to eat the stuff from Cheutmal and don’t have to go there and if you can get it at a less cost? If you had a Free Trade agreement with Mexico, we’d get a 30% cost reduction in our cost of living. But why is it, one organisation says no to the 5 bucks, no to the Free trade agreement? It doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t make sense. The other part about the question that you’ve raised, look, we’ve seen them do legislation overnight. If they’re interested they can do it. I’m in conversation with people from BELTRAIDE and I understand in two weeks we should be able to go for that concession. We should go up and see if we need equipment. We should be able to file. And I‘m hopeful that it’s not a big fee. Maybe it’s a $100 fee and we get results in 1 week. In this digital age with all this digitisation, there’s no point in waiting and I’ve also asked them if, could they make a MOU, a Memorandum of Understanding with the tax agencies so that you only go to BELTRAIDE. You don’t have to come back and go to the sales department and so that your fists everybody. With the kind of living physical tommy that we have, we should be able to happen so I‘m expecting that that’s the minimum.“

On the issue of the GDP, as we reported at the end of June, Belize’s figures were being calculated using the UN Statistical Division System of National Accounts, created in 1993. This methodology was updated in 2008 and is seen as more accurate and comprehensive. In 2022, it is the first time Belize is using it. So that means that Belize’s debt-to-GDP ratio is now below 90 percent, down from 133 percent when the Briceno government took office and accounting for the switch in methodology. Lizarraga explained why this is welcome news for the economy. 

Arturo Lizarraga, President, Belize Business Bureau: “No, because the fact that the Blue Bond did reduce the level of indebtedness is significant. It shifts the whole role, the payment system, the fact that Taiwan did reschedule. Remember that this is not just a magic moment. The public service had to agree to take the 10% cut. They did, which was generous. A lot of people had to take pain for this discussion and we in the private sector had to wait, keep taking the pain while they got their money back. It’s been two years. People forget it’s been two years has gone and we’ve been here suffering in this corner so I’m saying to you, it’s transformative because yes you can say well they’re juggling the numbers they’re trying to give themselves more physical space more space to borrow more money etcetera etcetera but i is transformative because if you were on the regime of borrow borrow til you can’t borrow no more, we’d be broke and destitute, so the fac that they reversed the direction of where the economy was gong from 133% and they brought it below 100% is significant.”

We asked Lizarraga for a response to whether this is just a case of numbers applied differently without a material effect in people’s pockets. Here’s how he justified the bureau’s position.

Arturo Lizarraga, President, Belize Business Bureau: “That’s very simple. If you owe Courts 80% of your salary, there’s not very much you can do. You can’t take a taxi instead of a bus. You can’ eat margarine, you have to stick with lard. It’s very simple and similar with public spending, if the Government doesn’t have it, it can’t pay people. I can’t buy things. It can’t build roads so it’s necessary to get that space if they want to grow. And for to people to believe that they could go back to borrowing and max out, it’ll just make everybody suffer and really it’s the poor who end up paying taxes you know, that’s why  keep insisting, why not get this Free Trade agreement so we can have access? So poor people can have access to a variety of food stuff, right? Low in cost, good in health, right? Because at least you know that the Mexicans have to abide by regulations rather than have to import stuff from China, have to import garlic from China, you know one person has the licence and all this foolishness. We need to break that up. Look, I am saddened  when you have to wait three weeks for a Social Security Card and if you pay $100 you get it tomorrow. So why can’t we just get it tomorrow? You know and this is what I am saying. That old corruption from the past keeps insisting that they need to continue living and I say we need to stop that and those are the issues that we’re fighting, those are the issues that we see. This reform is not just about policy. It’s about change of behaviour and how we view it.”