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Feb 28, 2005

Unions unhappy with tax implementation

Story PictureTomorrow is March first, the day on which government’s new tax measures, delayed from a month earlier, will begin to take effect. The idea, negotiated between GOB and the nation’s unions, was that the period in between would be used to examine alternative sources of revenue along with spending cuts that would reduce the tax burden, particularly on lower income Belizeans. Well, that process has resulted in some consensus…but not much. In a nutshell, Belmopan has agreed to knock one percentage point off the environmental tax, which will now go up to two percent on imports instead of three…and also agreed that excise tax on beer, already set to rise from one-eighty per gallon to three-sixty on March first, will go to four dollars on April first. That’s about it, and while economists looking at the realities of government’s financial situation will shudder at the further eroding of badly needed revenues, the unions say they are disappointed that GOB negotiators did not agree to larger rollbacks. At a press conference this afternoon union representative on the budget working group Zenaida Moya told News 5′s Patrick Jones that she is not happy with the way things have turned out.

Zenaida Moya, Union Rep., Budget Working Group
?I do not feel satisfied with the government?s position, as of the press release and as of what they told us would be their outcome, meaning an increase from one percent of the environmental tax to two percent because this will affect everybody. I also feel that in areas they could have easily increased on they refused to. So I do not feel satisfied with their side. As much as the TUC acted in good faith, I feel that the government they knew all along and we felt it. We had said it before that they would not and would not want to increase in a particular tax area.?

Patrick Jones
?Now at the start you said that some information you thought were vital were withheld from you. Have you petitioned those information? Are you going to keep asking for them??

Zenaida Moya
?We are going to keep asking for them definitely. We are going to keep asking for them.?

Patrick Jones
?Are we going to wake up on March first and having to pay increase taxes??

Zenaida Moya
?Well this will need to be passed into law. Whether or not they will meet tomorrow–I am not sure–I haven?t heard anything on that. I believe that will need to be passed into law. I am not sure; I haven?t heard anything on that. I believe that will need to be passed into law. I am sure they can get it done quickly so maybe…I don?t want to speculate. It could be a day or maybe two days.?

Patrick Jones
?But the government retains the right to go ahead with implementing taxes approved already in the budget for the next year.?

Zenaida Moya
?Well the agreement did state that if there were no agreement then they could. They have since said that environmental, well it will be two percent and then they have said beer excise would move from three dollars and sixty cents to four dollars.?

Patrick Jones
?So basically Zenaida, it appears as if though after all this exercise barely anything has been accomplished??

Zenaida Moya
?Well, you know what has been accomplished? Something specific to the people has been accomplished. Telling them that you and I, to the government, our cries don?t mean anything. There are powerful people out there and here we had a particular bank and we had a particular beer company. Those two interest groups, they, to the government mean everything and you and I mean nothing to the government.?

?They can say they represent the people of Belize, but I am not sure that they are truly showing that and we are showing that we refuse to accept that the poor people–that lady that lives with her three kids in a little, what Creole call ?Dog-sit-down?, a little hut–you don?t care about. That man who drags himself on the street everyday to make seventy-five dollars a week, you don?t care about that person and you are willing to increase taxes on those people without concern for them and allow those other men that can fly in a jet and a plane everyday. So if anything was gained, it?s that reality.?

Taxes slated to rise on Tuesday, in addition to environmental tax and excise on beer include higher levies on tobacco, alcohol and gambling as well as significant hikes in the business tax. The general rate will rise from one point two five percent of gross to one point seven five percent while professionals and certain financial institutions will see much steeper increases. Gas station operators will stay at point seven five percent on fuel sales and one point seven five percent on other items.

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