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May 2, 2017

P.M. Promises to Do Better with Corruption, Other Critical Issues

Dean Barrow

The recently passed General Revenue and Appropriation Bill prescribed increases in taxes totalling eighty million dollars to cover a shortfall, while limiting cuts in expenditure. Prime Minister Dean Barrow pointed to his statement in the Budget presentation of a ‘bold, Belizean recovery’ in addressing the Chamber. He pointed out that Belize’s economy had grown steadily under his hand in office up to 2016’s contraction and repeated that banks are liquid and inflation remains low. He offered as proof statistics that show production in sugar, banana, and shrimp of twenty-seven, fifty-two and fifty-seven percent, respectively, and continued growth in tourism arrivals. But he also told his audience that in ease of doing business, tax reform and greater efficiency in the public sector, and particularly corruption that Belize can do better.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Also, our confidence that the economy would bounce back in 2017, trumpeted during the recent Budget Presentation, is already being vindicated by early signals of expansion. For example, first quarter estimates show that sugar production rose by twenty-seven percent (from fifty-nine thousand to seventy-five thousand long tons), banana production surged by fifty-two percent (from eight hundred and fifty thousand to one point three million boxes), shrimp increased by fifty-seven percent (from two hundred and forty-one thousand to three hundred and eighty thousand pounds) and tourism continues its spectacular, multi-year growth with overnight and cruise arrivals increasing by two point five percent and eight point seven percent, respectively. Neither these signs of a robust rebound in 2017 nor any of the achievements since 2008 that I have mentioned should, however, give you any impression that I am satisfied with the current speed of doing business; or that I am unconcerned about further tax reforms or achieving greater efficiencies in the public sector; or that there is any slackening of resolve to slay the hydra-headed monster of corruption. In all these regards, I know we can do better.”

 

The Prime Minister also announced a planned review of analysis of taxes and fees in effect across the economy, with the goal of recommending growth-stimulating adjustments to current levies and rates; adoption by the Ministry of Investment of a re-purposing strategy for Commercial Free Zones and collaboration with the business sector on a Trade Policy Framework already approved by Cabinet and ramping up the switch to digital e-Government. 

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