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Stabilizing the economy during covid-19 pandemic

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Posted: Monday, March 23, 2020. 11:40 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Charles Leslie Jr.: Food:

Create A Credit System Paid For By GOB

People on the Boost program and other similar programs…single parents, elderly…should qualify immediately. Then roll out a country wide program identifying most at-risk Belizeans, such as who have been laid off from their job. Set up a credit system with grocery stores. Each person qualified can get X dollars worth of groceries per day. Showing a social security card to get your daily quota (or it could be every other day, or whatever works best).

Social Security is already doing the best it can, and should consider doing more, when it comes to putting cash in people’s hands.

Health:

I spent $57.25 on just two bottles of medication that treats bronchitis. For me that’s a lot. For many, that is not even a consideration. Medication in Belize is marked up about 25% higher than in the US. That means, medication is not cheap. GOB needs to formulate a plan to reduce the cost of medication at this time so that people don’t simply stay at home and remain sick from whatever it is they may have, and punish.

National Health Insurance (NH)I:

Belize desperately needs a national health insurance program. It is set up partially, but it needs to be rolled out countrywide, now. Most Belizeans can’t afford a $500 medical bill before, even more Belizeans won’t be able to at a time like this.

UTILITIES

Electricity:

Homes

For the next bill cycle: if you are using less than $100 per month your bill is completely waived (not postponed). If you are using more than $100 but less than $200 you get a 50% discount. Anything over $200, you contact BEL to find out what can be done, if anything.

All bills cycle after that (since people will be locked in their homes, thus using more electricity): if you are using less than $150 per month, your bill is completely waived (not postponed). If you are using more than $150 but less than $250 you get a 50% discount. Anything over $250, you contact BEL and find out what can be done, if anything.

Tourism Business Such As Hotels And Resorts

Give a discount of 50% on the most recent bill cycle so that they can keep cash flow (or at least close to) positive. All billing cycles thereafter reduce electricity rates by at least 30%. I assume most of these businesses are already closed for business, so electricity use should be reduced to a bare minimum.

Communication:

Prepaid Digi Customers

Give X amount of data and credit to prepaid customers per X days. Example: every 3 days. If you use that data and credit before then you simply have to wait until the next cycle, or purchase more.

BWS:

Homes

All water bills for households should be immediately waived. This should last for as long as it is necessary.

Businesses

Businesses should get a 50% discount on their last bill. 30% discount on any bill going forward until the pandemic is over.

Rent:

GOB needs to reach out to Landlords and negotiate rent reduction. Consider paying all or a portion of the rent based on the person’s current employment status as well as other factors to be identified, such as age, health (mental and physical) etc.

This is also an opportune time to create rent legislation and finance a nationwide housing program such as Singapore did for its people.

Taxes:

Goods And Services

This is a perfect opportunity to set up a flat tax system. 10% across the board. Phase out this GST, business tax, hotel tax etc. Belize is too small for all this complicated tax system.

Real Estate/Property Tax

In Miami, Americans are accustomed to paying up to $8,000us in property taxes. Restructuring property taxes (on a graduating scheme) could create a revenue stream for local Councils in tourism destinations such as Placencia, Hopkins, Caye Caulker etc…making these areas less dependent on central government and more versatile and agile during instances like we are going through right now.

Fuel:

Tour Guides/Operators

Allow all license guides and operators a discounted rate on fuel.At least a 50% discount. Many guides will turn back to commercial fishing to sustain themselves and their families, they need to be able to afford to do so. Once the pandemic is over and borders start opening up, tourists start coming, keep this 50% discount through 2021 so these businesses can offer discounted rates, yet keep their mark-up within profitable margins, and bounce back the economy as fast as possible. Especially since our economy is so highly dependent on tourism.

Transport Industry

apply the same to bus and taxi operators.

NOTE: GOB will not lose its cash cow. Oil prices are crumbling. As of this morning WTI Crude is at $22.68US per barrel. My understanding, Belize is currently procuring at $50US per barrel. Eliminating purchasing different grades of fuel, and consolidating into purchasing just one grade to negotiate better prices, as has been recommended years ago.

Lending institutions:

Loans

Place a 6 month moratorium on all loans immediately. Also, this is a perfect opportunity to pass usury laws to establish an interest rate threshold, pass truth in lending laws and predatory lending laws.

Negotiate with lending institutions to consolidate all loans especially for small businesses in the tourism industry. Lock in those low rates for 3 years, waive penalty fees. Reward those who keep their loan instrument in good standing within those 3 years.

Credit Cards

Negotiate to make all outstanding credit card balance be converted to a loan at very low interest rates and waive all late fees and penalties.

Check Cashing

GOB should set up its own facilities to cash checks and charge a much smaller percentage. This creates another revenue stream for GOB and keeps more disposable income in Belizean’s pockets.

Belizeans need to survive this economic fall out, and coming out at the end of this with massive additional debt will cripple them and the economy.

Education:

This is an absolute perfect opportunity to completely re-imagine our education system utilizing technology, such as for remote learning. We can use the Finnish education system, where we could move towards getting far more qualified teachers (paid as well as doctors) thus producing citizens who can compete on the international scene in innovation etc. We need to get value for money out of our education system.

Crime

This is a perfect opportunity for the Government of Belize to build a true rehabilitation facility in the Mountain Pine Ridge for these troubled Belize City youths (and youths countrywide), such as have been proposed for many years. As the Mennonites have been doing with building homes, we can do the same and start a real housing program, and have these young men build proper one-bedroom and two-bedroom homes for the people in their communities and themselves.

Just to start with.

We tried this 30 day lock down. It worked for that short period. Thereafter, crime came right back, and worse yet, it spread out across the country even more, and criminals got even more vicious.

We need the policy makers now to step in and fill in the gap for the medium and long term. We need to reprogram these young men, not simply jail them. And whatever labor output they produce, needs to benefit their communities, not some private entity.

Let’s make sure that we set up a system that will not make them more vicious when they come out, but more productive and proud.

Conclusion:

With this (preliminary) plan the GOB can move to stabilize the economy, assist the Belizean people (especially the most vulnerable) in a fair and structured way instead of giving out wads of cash which may be squandered.

This may set a precedent to move the country towards setting up a more robust social and economic system so that our economy and people can become more productive and thus self-reliant; allowing our country to become more competitive and innovative, moving from a consumer state to a producer state.

This is an opportune time to move from more debates, to more data, less opinions, to more science, less thoughts and prayers, to applying more integrated and coordinated technology.

“This is an unprecedented moment and we have got to think in an unprecedented way.” Senator Bernie Sanders.

PS: Feel free to share your own thoughts. Thanks for reading.

#NationalOversightCommittee #COVID19 #StayHealth #StaySafe #StayPrepared #StayCalm

 

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