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Jan 18, 2005

Chamber plans next anti-tax move…

Story PictureIf you listened to rumours on the street you would think that by Thursday or Friday all life in Belize will come to a halt. But while citizens anxiously wait to see if the water, light and telephone service will be halted by angry utility workers, the unions and others opposed to new tax increases are officially taking their time to formulate a plan of action. Earlier this evening, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry held an emergency meeting with its membership to decide on their way forward in response to the budget presented last Friday. This morning, President of the BCCI, Arturo Vasquez, explained his organisation’s approach to Belize’s new financial reality.

Arturo Vasquez, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce
?We have looked at some of the more critical areas like the taxation, particularly we listened to the Prime Minister?s speech where he discussed or he mentioned that maybe these taxes should not be passed onto the consumer. I think this is a comment that needs correction. Most of these taxes that do affect importation and cost of doing business has to be passed on; primarily I refer to the environmental tax that went up by two percent. That is a direct hit, on a cost of anything by around two percent added to consumer goods.?

?We need to put some sort of pressure on government to see if we can perhaps get them to consider–and not only to consider because I do believe that they consider reform?except to do some real, real immediate actions of making some of these reforms constitution. The point I want to make as well is that these reforms that we are asking for this exercise has been there is no need to do these exercise. This was done back in the year 2000 when there was the political reform commission to put all these things together. So we are really just asking for some of these things that we believe could affect the financial controls of the country?s finances.?

Janelle Chanona
?Pressuring the Government, how do you intend to do that??

Arturo Vasquez
?That is one of the reasons why I am calling the membership together for us to get a full understanding of how we want to do it. There are several ways we could perhaps look at, maybe not paying the tax, which is something that we have considered before. But that certainly will not be one our first priorities. I believe because it could be legal as well because even though we are trying to pressure on, I think we need to put a responsible approach to all this. And where the business community is concerned, we need to be aware of a way forward. It could be maybe a sign of businesses not deciding to do business for a day or two. We are not sure. That of course cannot come from the executive, cannot come from me as the Chamber president. It has to come from the business community as a whole. So our purpose this evening is really to bring them up to date of what we have done so far; maybe highlight some of the main taxes that were increased because some people may have missed it. Then perhaps concluding the meeting by deciding what is the best way forward and that is something that the collective membership would have to decide on.?

There are approximately three hundred and fifty businesses listed as members of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry although it is not clear how many have actually paid their annual dues.

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