Letter to the Editor: Businessman unjustly harassed by GST Department
Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2016. 10:05 a.m. CST.
The following is a letter submitted to the editor by Andre Perez ;Casa Pan Dulce Bakery
Yesterday a good friend and brother of mine who is in the same industry as I am was “dragged” to court according to the media to answer charges of failure to properly display his GST certificate in his tortilla establishment. He pleaded guilty and was fined 3000.00. He further informed me that upon exiting the court he was approached by certain members of the media advising him that if he didn’t want this matter to appear in the media that it could be arranged. My friend wisely responded and said “No thanks. Let it come to the attention of the public.” He felt that he had been treated harshly, unjustly and completely uncalled for and so he walked away with his head held up high. I go on record to stand in solidarity with him and also bring to light this travesty.
Besides having to endure unjust treatments from GST, he has had worst to endure 8 years of cost absorbing in his raw material that we know as Maseca. Back in 2008 this raw product sold for 42.00 Bze per bag. Today this same bag is selling for a whopping $63.50 despite the fact that very little has changed in Mexico and Guatemala with the prices. Increasing this product by a few cents can create riots in these countries. The million dollar question is how come it has become so expensive despite the fact that very little has changed in this product in the region? The public must be made aware of the facts.
The importation of this product is exclusively controlled by a western importer who chooses to import from Guatemala due to proximity. Of course this importer also enjoys protection in Government and is jealously guarded so no one else gets a license since this is a lucrative business where they have the luxury of setting their prices.
Prior to 2008 the Maseca was imported from Mexico and it was done by several importers who competed and therefore prices were competitive.
A last check with prices and product grade has revealed that the grade being supplied in Belize is second grade while premium grade of the same product is currently selling at 25.00 Bze in Mexico.
This dramatic increase in prices has forced tortilla producers to absorb the cost since increasing prices on finished product will not sell. I myself, being in the industry once was forced to close down and similarly my sister who had a similar business also became a casualty. I know of two more businesses who say that if nothing changes they will be closing down too.
In closing, I want to also share that my friend has had his business establishment in the heart of Southside for more than 20 years, and I know that he employs well over 60 Belizeans who are permanently employed. It is from this angle that this government or more specifically the Deputy Prime Minister who happens to have this establishment located in his constituency should start looking at this very serious matter. This government approach of vindictive and milking approach of the business sector has got to stop. Belizean businesses all around this country are closing down one by one and if this government continue on this path of vindictive approach then heaven help us. I would like to close off with a quote from Last week’s Amandala Editorial Nov 26th titled “The possible and the real.” Quote” The indigenous Belizean private sector has complained to us that the foreign immigrant private sector has an unfair advantage because they are ripping off our tax regime.” Read between the lines GST DEPARTMENT, I know you guys are trying to plug the leaks, but you guys looking in the wrong place!!
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
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