The EPZ ACT is another Belize law that creates imbalance in the playing field…..special, politically driven, discretionary benefits for a few….at the cost of the Belizean tax payer.
The beneficiaries of EPZ status basically pay NO tax in Belice!!! Does Belize law actually ENCOURAGE and FACILITATE poor CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP?
DOWN-SIDE OF EPZ ACT
They use our roads and other infrastructure; our land, air, water and other natural resources; our education and health services; our security and safety services; fire and natural disaster services, among others. In many cases, they also contaminate our environment, ground water, coral reefs, seas, air and land…most of them repatriate their profits abroad….and therefore, they do not contribute ONE IOTA to the building, maintenance and repairs of these.
UP-SIDE OF EPZ ACT
They do create an insignificant amount of low-paying jobs for a few Belizeans, but mostly for migrant workers from the neighboring republics.
There is no available cost-benefit study EPZ ACT for Belize. Hence, no one can argue for nor against EPZ’s with any calculated objectivity.
Some local companies that do not export a dime also enjoy EPZ status….and they compete on the domestic market with other companies that pay all their taxes.
Many EPZ’s “seep” their goods and services into Belize domestic market, creating all kinds of destructive distortions.
Many companies have EPZ status in Belize….but have not invested a dime other than the purchase of the lands….thus they are exempt from paying land and other taxes, while speculating with our land….when everyone of us who hold lands in Belice have to pay land and other taxes.
1. Belize needs to create a level and competitive playing field for ALL investors in the country to make profits commensurate with the world averages for the industry in which they are operating. 1% business tax, 10% GST across the board (which is refundable, no GST on exports), no export tax, no tax other than GST on fuel, zero-rating of ALL inputs for production industries in the Customs Tariff Law (most are already exempt anyway via Development Concession), lower personal income tax, no excise tax, no dividend/capital-gains tax on top of business tax, Environmental Tax on ALL imports across the board of 2%. With this kind of INVESTMENT ENVIRONMENT, there would be no need for EPZ’s special status in our economy. If a business cannot thrive under these rules, they are worthless….and perhaps even detrimental….to Belize. An independent cost-benefit study of EPZ’s needs to be done….and this will prove my point.
2. The listed “benefits” of EPZ status are #16 in number. The Government of Belize certainly knows good, good, good what are the obstacles that they have put in place for investments….that is how these “exemptions” have been identified and listed. They are effectively saying to investors “start on your knees, and I will raise you up from there”…..the other parts of that conversation is not for public consumption. No bonafide investor who have worked hard for their resources, will stoop to that level. Any wonder why misfits and criminals from other countries are always showing up in Belize? The Belize Government, and its laws, need to abide by The Belize Constitution….which explicitly says that ALL our business should be conducted WITHOUT fear or favor. ALL our laws, including the EPZ ACT, needs to be screened against our Constitution…..if they do not meet the basic criteria set by our Constitution….they need to be scrapped and or re-drafted to bring them in line.
3. The EPZ is just another “accommodation agreement”…..a sheep of a different color….that caters for special interest persons or groups….for the exercise of political discretion….and corruption. They cause grave imbalances to the investment environment…and do more to chase bonafide investors….than to attract them. Is not the evidence clear to see? If EPZ and Development Concessions and all these special provisions….that are all POLITICALLY connected….were so attractive to investors….Belize, with such a small population should have excess jobs. Investors are looking for places that are competitive in cost and/or innovation….highly productive…..with fair laws and justice….low corruption….good infrastructure and services….etc. No amount of SPECIAL PROVISIONS that are dependent on POLITICAL gimmicks will attract any BONAFIDE investors to Belize….in fact, they will chase them away….just check how many of the companies that have invested in Belize, have gone belly up or left our shores. Lets scrap these unjust laws that create imbalance and political favor, and adopt proven strategies that bonafide investors find attractive….examples exist all over the world.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Masters in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
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