Belize Chamber of Commerce says economy is failing due to corruption

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Posted: Tuesday, April 11, 2017. 10:58 a.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) issued a release today stating that it views with grave concern the recent revelations in the media regarding the alleged manipulation of General Sales Tax (GST) audit results by Management personnel at the Department of GST, as well as the apparent widespread facilitation by police officers in the transport of contraband of goods across the Belize/Mexico border.

The BCCI calls on the government to immediately launch a thorough, complete, and transparent investigation into the allegations made by the GST Officer, particularly due to the mandatory and onerous nature of penalties imposed by the court for failure to pay GST assessments.

“Any methodology used by the Department of GST in auditing businesses and making assessments must be uniform and fair to the taxpayer as well as the government. While there is a need for government to increase revenue, the BCCI maintains that this should be done through the auditing of businesses that fail to pay any GST, and not by unfair practices directed towards those that comply. The BCCI calls for an impartial examination of procedures adopted by the Department of GST along with implementation of corrective measures so as to assure the business community of the objectivity and fairness of GST audits. This is imperative in order to restore stakeholders’ trust and confidence in the GST department,” the BCCI says.

The BCCI also notes that while the police officers involved in the contraband of goods as shown on Channel 7’s newscast were charged for an “Act of Prejudice to Good Order and Discipline” and placed on interdiction, there is no mention that the statutorily prescribed fine of three times the value of the goods was levied against them.

The Chamber says that it demands that the police officers be subjected to the usual and full penalty that would be imposed against any other contrabandista.

“This is a criminal activity and there can be no leniency when police officers are caught breaking the very laws they are sworn to uphold,” BCCI further added.

According to the Chamber, our nation’s economy is failing because of decades of corruption, not just by high officials, but also by those in the public sector whom we entrust with our socioeconomic well-being.

“Whether carried out by public official or private sector person or private citizen, contraband and other forms of corruption weaken our economy and our nation. Corruption and subjective application of rules are unacceptable in any society if it is to function for the benefit of its citizens, and where found such abuse of office must be dealt with energetically, visibly and to the fullest extent possible.”

The BCCI also said that no Belizean is above the law, not police officers, our ministers, or management at the Department of GST.

The Chamber calls on citizens to report instances of corruption, and demands that the government treats each and every report with the seriousness it deserves.

“It is time to break the corruption chain and take our country back from those who would steal it, or sell it out for pennies!” the release ends.

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