BEL TAX BONANZA

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The last time Belizeans experienced a raise in electricity rates was six months ago in July of the present year.  It is an unjustifiable hike in prices the Government of Belize (GOB) seeks.  Electricity prices in Belize are tied directly to world fuel prices because that is the major source of generation of the electricity we use.  World prices for crude oil are comparatively low.  Prices for fuel in some states in the USA are below the US$2.00 mark.  How then is it possible to justify a new price increase in our electricity rates when there have been no recent expansions in the grid, no projects in the pipeline for increased coverage of electricity.  The truth we must face is that it is a tax.  Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) is GOB controlled and by increasing the rates of electricity they have in effect burdened us with yet another heavy tax.  A tax that they could implement immediately without waiting for the new fiscal year and the budget.

Energy is important for all nations and peoples.  It is energy and technology which drive our economies, industry, productivity and quality of life.  Energy contributes to our health and education, our telecommunication, and transport.  Our government through taxes and pricing in effect control how much energy we can Pier One hangs in the balance afford to buy and use.  It is through policy that they affect quality of life and productivity of each and every Belizean.  In his paper entitled Energy Omar J Borla tells us that the response to an increase in electricity rates will result in the passing of the increase of the cost of production to the consumer.  It will also increase energy conservation and will result in the cutting of labour costs as well as reducing hours of production.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) transport accounts for fifty seven percent of our energy consumption.  Residential use accounts for almost twenty one percent and industry and commerce uses twenty two percent.  In September 2012 the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, and Public Utilities (MESTPU) published the National Sustainable Energy Strategy (2012–2033) where they made several pledges.  The first was to reduce the dependence of imported fossil fuels by fifty percent by 2020.  To increase the production of domestic renewable energy and to increase conservation and energy efficiency.  The GOB was even more ambitious in that they pledged to turn Belize into a net electricity exporter by 2020.  These lofty goals are ludicrous as Central Bank reports that since 2008 foreign direct investment in the energy sector (and particularly in the electricity subsector) has plunged.

Emory Ford of the University of West England in 2013 wrote a paper entitled The Effects of Fiscal Policy on Output in Belize.  He contends that GOB tends to “raise taxes in Belize to ameliorate budget deficits and pay down debt incurred in previous periods(deficit driven tax) instead of raising taxes to increase public investment expenditure in future periods to boost economic activity(spending driven tax). Ford further explains and over a three year period his investigation showed that for every dollar in increased taxes that GDP in Belize reduces by nineteen cents.

Let us be very clear about just what these increases in energy rates really are…TAXES!  When we think about energy it also should include fuel and LPG which like electricity are taxed mercilessly by this cruel GOB.  Taxes on energy lower our productivity but also reduce our quality of life by making basic necessities such as refrigeration, lighting for homes, fuel for cooking, and communications prohibitive. Taxes reduce our purchasing power at a time when we already find ourselves stretching that dollar to the limits. The Prime Minister and Cabinet further compound the punishment by offering/announcing it to us at Christmas time.  These TAXES are unjust, unfair and unreasonable.  These TAXES are the result of poor fiscal planning and judgment, and a UDP government in trouble desperate for Belizeans to now bail them out of the myriads of debt arrogant Borrow and his lack luster cabinet have heaped on us.