The Belize Business Bureau today broke its silence on the debate of Government’s plan to increase the minimum wage to five dollars an hour. President Arturo Lizarraga said today that the Briceno Administration should not phase it in, but instead implement the five-dollar minimum right now! Lizarraga said that, as a matter of fact, the increase should have happened already.
Arturo Lizarraga, President, Belize Business Bureau: “It’s long overdue. We’ve just come out of a large crisis, COVID. There is a lot of poverty. The first 10% of the country which is the public sector has gotten back their money their 10% but there is an extreme amount of poverty where kids are going and sleeping more hours than normally because there’s only one plate of dinner on the table. People are borrowing just to eat and I believe that the Prime Minister should take the opportunity to institute the $5 minimum wage immediately in all sectors perhaps except agriculture and agriculture should be phased in at least two years but no more than two years. What I’m trying to suggest that even though there’s a consultant involved and there is talk if we have that implementation for example another route you could go is put a list of two hundred items that Belizeans can go to Chetumal and purchase at zero rate so that they could eat, so that they could have a list on the customs officer so he doesn’t take it away from you and so that he can’t charge you for it that’s one alternative to give people the chance to have dinner on the table. But I would suggest that more immediately let’s just implement the wage.”
Arguably, it is surprising that a body that represents many businesses have taken such a position on such an important issue. However, Lizarraga argues that because the population keeps businesses afloat, benefits to the people will only mean more for the business community. Here’s how Lizarraga puts it.
Arturo Lizarraga, President, Belize Business Bureau: “There’s complaints on the business side but there’s also the reality of the economy. If you give people that five dollars they’ll spend it and they’ll spend it on food and so that gives a new dynamic to the economy. It allows government to collect more taxes, it allows people an opportunity to deal with inflation because inflation is not just the fuel inflation is the supply chain.”
Reporter: The Chamber of Commerce has long advocated for a phased approach and the second argument that I put to you is the fact that by the time we do implement a $ 5 dollar minimum wage it simply might not be enough. How do we square that off ?
Arturo Lizarraga, President, Belize Business Bureau: “Very easy. Fat belly will tell hungry belly wait and that can’t continue. Anybody who has their bread on the table and their air condition and their car nicely filled up with gas is telling the rest who is hungry outside looking in wait we will take care of you and we can’t sustain that. Let us give the people their five dollars and let us give them it now. We can’t wait because by the time we wait all the waiting will ease all the value, people will lose their homes. They’re borrowing to eat you know ? Soon they’ll have to sell the house just to eat or they might have to give up education just to eat, we can’t afford that. Our people need a break. This is not politics you know this is human decency and this is not about business this is about the economy. If we give them the $5 dollars they’ll spend it. We’ll have more going on.”