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Mar 21, 2017

APAMO Continues Challenge to Government on Taxes

Government is proposing to increase departure tax for visitors to Belize to forty US dollars from thirty-five. It intends to raise as much as eleven million dollars from this tax alone. The rise forms part of its plan to raise eighty million dollars in new tax revenue for the financial year beginning April first. But the proposed increase is not sitting well for many reasons with the conservation community. Late this evening, APAMO, the umbrella organization for twelve N.G.O.s, issued a release on behalf of its membership. It points out that the sustainability assessment conducted as part of the Sustainable Financing Strategy for Belize’s Protected Areas System confirms that protected areas are grossly underfunded, and are unable to pay for some of the basic expenditures required for their management. The system is currently facing a significant financial gap for an adequately managed system of protected areas of approximately thirty eight million dollars a year. In contrast the Protected Areas Conservation Trust’s yearly revenue is in the range of four million with an average two million invested in protected areas per year. According to APAMO, PACT is unable to meet core costs or even the required twenty percent required. In fact, PACT recently conducted a ‘Willingness to Pay’ survey and overall tourists are willing to pay up to eleven dollars and twenty-five cents to be invested in our protected areas. APAMO also notes that the 2015 amendment act decreased the revenue earnings by removing five percent  of the Cruise Tourism Head Tax resulting in a shortfall which is worsened by the proposed ten percent tax contribution through the Statutory Bodies.  APAMO says that for these reasons, PACT should not be utilized as the collecting agency for the increase in departure tax. It argues that this would eliminate any future increase in the conservation fee to obtain needed revenue for the management of protected areas, which are the basis for the tourism industry. APAMO is also asking government to hold consultations with stakeholders in particular the protected areas co-managers on this issue.

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