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April 26, 2020

Belize Business Bureau’s economic recovery plan proposes rebalancing of energy and utility industries

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Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2020. 1:10 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Earlier this week we reported on the Belize Business Bureau’s intervention to assist economic recovery. Its plan includes removing more than 4,000 ‘non-essential’ public sector workers and contract officers to reduce the wage and pension bill.

But the counterpart of that plan is to create 60,000 new jobs by other means, particularly in the transport, utility and energy industries.

Public transport took a hiatus of more than three weeks this month in the wake of state of the emergency and district, then national quarantine orders which prevented public transportation except in cases of emergency. Oil prices internationally have slumped significantly with lower production and usage, resulting in lower prices at the gas pumps.

The bureau proposes a standard ten percent tax or duty for four-cylinder vehicles, buses, delivery trucks and work vehicles for agriculture and industry and 20 percent for SUV and luxury vehicles, and reducing taxes on fuel, which it argues goes mostly to paying wages and pensions. The kind of vehicles imported, it suggests, would lead to more fuel efficiency and less accidents, as well as increased profit and more jobs. The National Transport Master Plan formulated a few years ago also envisions a re-done public transportation fleet and bus terminal in Belize City.

The public utilities’ reluctance to consider deferring bills drew a lot of Belizeans’ ire and the Bureau argues that it puts the lie to the fact that we own Belize Telemedia, Belize Water Services and Belize Electricity Limited in perpetuity. Government subsidies, BBB argues, make these a heavy burden on the public purse. It argues for the dismantlement of BTL, regulating it to a data distributor and the sub-companies sold off to small family-owned businesses for more new jobs.

And most Belizeans are turning to renewable means of energy – if they can afford it. The law can be amended to mandate energy consumers become ‘prosumers’ – producing energy for their own use and selling any excess to BEL for redistribution, reducing its debt and dependence on Mexico and hydroelectric dams and once again, creating jobs.

BBB points out that the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is promoting renewable energy, but few are taking it on because it is too costly to take on if they cannot sell any excesses. It would lead to manufacturing for panels, solar farms and cheaper energy for small industries.

 

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