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Feb 10, 2017

Government Spendthrift, Says Chamber of Commerce and Business Bureau

News Five has seen a copy of the Government’s working document for its ongoing budget consultations with the trade unions, civil society and the business community.  It proposes an increase in revenues of up to two percent of G.D.P., on top of the one point five percent obtained last year through increases in import duties for fuel, and a reduction of one percent of G.D.P. in expenditure.  But does that result in a more workable and balanced budget? Not for the business community, who sat down with Financial Secretary Joseph Waight and Minister of State for Finance and Natural Resources, Doctor Carla Barnett.  Senator Mark Lizarraga, representative of the business community in the upper chamber and a long-time champion of more conservative fiscal management, tells us that the Government must restrain its appetite to spend beyond its means.

 

Mark Lizarraga

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“Government has been consuming faster than we have been growing when it comes to tax revenue.  Our tax revenue has been performing well; but Government spending has been outpacing the revenue that it’s collecting. So we believe that certainly, we need to remove this huge appetite that the Government has for spending, because it’s neutralizing, in effect, our growth; everything that we contribute, they spent and then some. Because if we look at the numbers for ’15 – ’16, we would have seen that Government overspent in their Budget some three hundred and twenty-four million dollars; we needed to finance. So that’s a huge amount of money that we are spending more than we are collecting. It is projected that for ’16 – ’17, Government would have over spent two hundred and four million – this is up from the hundred and forty-nine million that they projected. So we see that Government continues not only to present budgets that are not balanced, but even when they present the budgets, they overspend what they projected they would overspend.”

 

As has been widely noted, Belize has been mired in an economic recession for all of 2016 going into 2017, anchored by sharp falls in revenues from the major exports. Exacerbating matters are the Government’s acquisitions of Belize Telemedia Limited and Belize Electricity Limited, which bled hundreds of millions from the economy in payments to their former owners and litigation over the takeovers.

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