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Dec 1, 2016

Times Haad, Chamber Complains; Don’t Raise Taxes!

Nikita Usher

‘How di Krismus di come?’ It’s a favourite question of the press at this time of the year for consumers darting in and out of the shops looking for top deals. But if you ask the shopkeepers themselves, they’ll tell you it has been a rough 2016, and they hold little hope for what is usually one of the busiest times of the year. Belize has been in a recession almost since the start of the year, with sharply cut exports, rising imports and increased joblessness, leading to more crime and violence which further hurts the business community. Businesses are also haunted by the spectre of possible tax increases to cover Government revenue shortfalls in the New Year. President of the Chamber of Commerce Nikita Usher addressed these issues and called on Government to get its house in order.

 

Nikita Usher, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry

“I think the macro is the I.M.F. report, but you also have to look at what the Statistical Institute produced only yesterday. It is definitely showing us that there is a recession in play right now, there is a scarcity, the productive sector has not pulled into their position as yet. Take, for example, citrus: ordinarily, we’d have had citrus being harvested as early as October; we have not started to harvest as yet – so one could imagine, then, the workforce that work in those industries are not having the buying power. So our members will feel that pain as well, because there will not be sufficient buying power to purchase the goods that they have to offer. And that is what the recession will do to us; it is a crunch point in time as we speak.”

 

Reporter

“You mentioned in your address that Government should be very careful in considering any decision to raise taxes; what would be a sticking point for the Chamber in that regard?”

 

Nikita Usher

“As I said in my presentation, the easiest way for any Government – and it’s not just this Government – the easiest way for any Government to bridge a shortfall is to ensure that they just raise the taxes. Why? Because a tax structure is already existent; all they would have to do is to increase how much they are actually collecting, and that would bridge. What we are saying at the Chamber is that we are in dialogue with the Government to say that before you actually consider doing that, our request is for you to look at how do you, one, reduce your expenditures, because that is another way of reducing the actually operations of Government, but two, also how do you put mechanisms in place that are capturing more of the businesses to pay their fair share of taxes as opposed to burdening the few. There are seepages, there are leakages, there are people who are getting away in the system who are not paying taxes, and we are saying you must find ways of getting that done, before you come in to raise taxes. That has been our message.”

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