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Social Partners Submit Recommendations to GOB on Stabilizing Fuel Prices

Today was the deadline for the social partners who met with Prime Minister, Dr. John Briceno on Wednesday, to submit their recommendations on the best way forward regarding the high cost in fuel prices. As is, the government has already begun absorbing some increases as the last shipment of diesel saw the Briceno administration absorb thirty-five percent of the taxes levied on diesel fuel. That cut allowed consumers to pay thirteen dollars and forty-one cents as opposed to fourteen dollars and seventy cents per gallon. It was a one-time cut, as the government is consulting several stakeholders on the issue. Love News met up with the Prime Minister today where he spoke on how the meeting went and his expectations.

Dr. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “I was very pleased. I must tell you I was a bit hesitant because everybody is crying out about the high price of fuel and my concern was that they would just go and say that I must just recklessly say just cut the tax. Everybody understood around the table that the fuel tax plays an important role in the finances of the country, in the monies that we need. So they were throwing some really constructive ideas as to what we can do from using more fuel efficient vehicles but also on the fuel. They are seeing that how is it that we could cap the maximum amount of the price that we can and then keep it at that level and so when the price goes up, you leave it there and then take off from the tax and then when the price goes down, you increase the tax so that we could, Government can get back some those revenues that we would lose. That was a very good idea. Another idea they were saying was targeting the assistance for agriculture, for tourism, some people were saying for the protected areas because they only have limited funds. So there are a lot of ideas. I asked them to send in their ideas today. We hope to put it together and then go to Cabinet with some concrete ideas as to how we can address the issue of the high price of fuel. As it is, as we pointed out, we’ve already reduced the tax on Diesel by $1.30 odd cents even before this meeting. So we are showing the Belizean people that we are trying to do our part. We want to do as best as we possibly can but we cannot be reckless. We can be reckless and say oh well take off all the tax just to try and curry the favour of the Belizean people but one year from now, two years from now, the financial repercussions are going to be even much greater so I thank them for the constructive meeting that we had. The bus owners were there and what is happening right now is: 1. We’ll be able to cap the price of Diesel so it will hopefully go down a little bit but more importantly I think we have to look at the price structure. As much as we don’t want to accept it, the price structure has to change because the bus owners are losing money and if they can’t get a little bit more revenue they’re going to shut down and then what’s going to happen?”

The social partners consulted include the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Belize Council of Churches, the Belize Business Bureau, bus operators, the network of non-governmental organizations and the agro-productive sector.////