Posted: Saturday, February 11, 2017. 11: 52 a.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: After months of ducking, dodging and dancing around the fire; Financial Secretary Joseph Waight has finally acknowledged what Prime Minister Dean Barrow could not muster the words to say, which is that taxes are expected to increase with the implementation of the budget for the new fiscal year.
Waight made the disclosure to the media yesterday following a meeting with the unions on the heels of another with Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) earlier this week.
According to Waight, “We can’t rule it out. It is very likely to be a tax increase.” And while Waight noted that there would most likely need to be an increase in taxes, he said no decision has been made as to what taxes exactly and what other measures may be necessary.
Currently, Belize is expected to see a negative growth in GDP over the next year but to satisfy the country’s debt obligations, which includes servicing payments to the Superbond, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted Belize will need GDP to grow by at least 3 percent. This is GOB’s reason for considering the tax increase, which is one of only a few options it has at its disposal.
The General Sales Tax (GST), is most likely the first that would have to be increased, however, reports have indicated that GOB may also consider removing the zero rating off certain basic goods and may even consider other measures including raising import duties and perhaps raising the tax on fuel. The IMF had also recommended that Belize reduce its wage bill, which stands at the highest in the region. This would, of course, involve some retrenchment but the government has been reluctant to consider this option for the political outfall it could have.
It all remains to be seen at this point but with the clock quickly ticking on a nearing default on the Superbond in the midst of restructuring efforts, Belize will need to act quickly.
Barrow, however, has dodged questions on the issue in interviews over the past few months, though, experts have predicted the increase of taxes as an inevitability.
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