Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2020. 4:19 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By John Saldivar MSc (Econ): As Belize attempts to recover from the economic impact caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, there needs to be a renewed focus on identifying new industries for job creation and new sources of foreign exchange earnings. Simultaneously, we must look at traditional export industries such as sugar, citrus, banana, aquaculture, marine and others to find ways of boosting earnings.
In this regard, we must look further at the taxes that are applied to these industries through their various inputs with a view to minimizing production costs and increasing competitiveness and profitability. We must also identify current shortcomings that can be remedied by government intervention such as land issues, certification issues, security issues, permit issues and other such requirements that can slow down production.
A comprehensive review of customs duties that apply to industry inputs must be undertaken immediately and a new policy designed to minimize the disincentives to production should be crafted. Similarly, a review of the sales tax, business tax, excise tax, export tax and any other fees or taxes that apply to these industries must be done post haste. Dialogue between these industries at the highest levels of government must produce mutually beneficial outcomes that expand production, enhance foreign exchange earnings and create jobs.
New industries must be identified including looking at some fledgling industries that have so far not been maximized due to lack of the proper enabling environment. A similar review of the tax environment must be done to eliminate fetters on production. An immediate review of the recently enacted hemp legislation must be undertaken in collaboration with potential industry stakeholders to determine what is holding back the anticipated explosion in investments in this industry. Proper market research and economic feasibility studies must be done on coconut, pineapple, papaya and others that appear to have high export potential. The vegetable oil and other agro-processing industries must be explored as a means of providing value added to farmers who are unable to store their produce.
The Belize Electricity Limited and the Public Utilities Commission must fast track the implementation of the Solar Energy Household Generation Project to assist families with energy costs, allow the excess to be sold to the grid, and reduce dependency on foreign and non-renewable power sources.
A Business Innovation Task Force under the Economic Mobilization Council (EMC) needs to be established to oversee the transformation and transition of the Belize economy away from its dependence on tourism and other traditional industries. The full diversification of the Belizean economy is long overdue. The remit of this task force will include continuous review of the enabling environment for business, as well as providing policy and legislative recommendations to steadily maximize production.
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