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Sep 13, 2017

Can Government Account for Spending from Increased Fuel Revenues?

For a country that imports far more than it exports and has for all of its existence, fuel is particularly important. Belize has for the past decade or so taken advantage of a cheaper source of fuel from Venezuela via Curacao under the Petrocaribe accord. Belize has outstanding loans under that program at what the Government has described as minimal interest. But more recently, according to the Government, Belize has been importing limited fuel supply from the United States via Houston, Texas, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction of that city, from El Salvador overland. Last week the Government announced prices would go up, but a week has gone by without any further notice. Questions have been raised about the near-fifty percent cut of taxes that goes to Government from the pumps, raised at Budget time in March to cover revenue shortfalls. Senator Lizarraga says that not only should those taxes be reduced, the Government should be made to answer how it has spent the revenue attained from them.

 

Mark Lizarraga

Mark Lizarraga, Senator, Business Community

“The one thing about fuel is it impacts everything, because everything that we consume is transported, unfortunately, vessels that consume fuel. It’s a tragedy that so much in our country, so much revenue is derived from fuel. So much revenue; almost half – I believe that last number I saw was almost half of what you pay at the pumps goes to the Government by way of taxes. At some stage we need to revisit that. But more importantly, why are these taxes so high? It’s because we cannot properly account for the way we spend the people’s money. So now we see the Government in earnest haste, trying to increase revenue from all sources, and unfortunately fuel is the beast of burden; that’s where they get a bulk of it. So just remember: almost half of everything you pay at the pumps goes to the Government by way of taxes. We need as a people to start focusing on how they spend our money; not just how much they collect, but how they spend it. And that’s why – I’m going to put in a plug here – that’s why we need to champion and fight for a Public Accounts Committee hearing to be held in public, because the people need to know how we’re spending their money.”

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