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Opposition Condemns High Cost of Living

The high cost of living is another matter that was discussed with a sharp focus on the regular adjustment in fuel and butane prices. Tracy Panton of the Albert Division presented on these matters.

Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “One year later we are all grappling with the crippling cost of commodities, yet another wicked problem already added to the list of three. And of this continues on unabated it will lead this country into abject poverty. Ladies and gentlemen the rising cost of goods and services are taking their toll on Belizeans. Week after week almost day after day there have been sharp increases in fuel costs. Government has failed to keep the price of fuel below the $10 per gallon mark. The number of increases in fuel alone, the number of adjustments in prices forty four times in one year. Forty four adjustments in prices and in one year the cost of regular gas has increase by 36%. We have gone in November of last year from $8.86 cents a gallon to $11.82 cents a gallon in November of this year. The cost of premium gas has increased by 32% from $9.20 a gallon to $12.11 a gallon I am sweating bullets just saying that. The cost of diesel has increased by 37% from $8.83 per gallon to $11.43 a gallon. The cost of kerosene has increased by 60% from $5.43 a gallon to $8.71 a gallon. At minimum this has to be criminal. The cost of LPG, Liquid Petroleum Gas that we refer to as butane has had in one year eleven price adjustments and an overall increase by 45%. We went from $99 a tank to $144 a tank.”

Panton went further to criticize the Briceno Administration on its hypocrisy. The media went further by asking her for solutions instead of pointing out the problems and deficiencies.

Tracy Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “Fundamentally the cost of fuel prices is what’s driving the increases in cost in all commodities. It’s driving what is imported, it’s driving the increases in what is locally produced, it’s driving the increases in controlled commodities in this country. So the baseline is that the tax intake on fuel needs to be adjusted until the global price index for fuel is reduced. The government has an obligation and a duty and a responsibility to take care of the basic needs of its citizens. So first and foremost we need to look at reducing and mitigating the impact of fuel cost in this country at this time. And a second thing, you’re right you know brother Chairman they want us to do the government’s job but the other thing is that the Bureau of Standards, the Consumer Protection Agency on record has to do its job to ensure that the shopkeepers and the grocery owners are not gouging at the most difficult time where people’s salaries have been cut by 10%, where jobs have been lost, where livelihoods have been threatened, where people are still not working. There are families in my constituency where both mother and father have lost their jobs and for those people the government ought to reinstate the safety net programs that will help these families along until we can get back to a place of normalcy.”

Reporter: In all fairness the press release, the invitation for this press conference did make mention solutions would be offered and this is why we’re asking along the lines of solutions.

Michael Peyrefitte, UDP Chairman, Former Minister of National Security: “No but Johnny Briceno when he was Leader of the Opposition said he criticized that very point you know. He said ‘grow the economy, grow the economy. You’re only raising the price on fuel UDP because you have no vision to grow the economy.’ so what would be the solution? For him to grow the economy and as Honorable Panton said you have over 40% of the price of fuel is taxes and you said when you were Leader of the Opposition that the government needs to reduce those taxes that’s a simple thing that you need to do. That’s as solution right there, a solution that he himself offered when he was Leader of the Opposition.”