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Jose Mai: Time to put agriculture first in Belize

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Posted: Friday, September 11, 2020. 9:55 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Orange Walk South area representative Jose Abelardo Mai opened his presentation by reminding that Belize has always been a land of agriculture – citing the original Maya and Baymen settlers who peoduced grains and crops and in the case of the latter cut down trees in the forests.

In spite of neglect, agriculture has held up the economy, especially during COVID-19, Mai said; now it is time to strengthen its value chain, and turn away from the steady diet of roads, bridges and roundabouts that has weakened our economy, he added.

The PUP promises to increase and diversify our food security, improve labour and make us more competitive regionally.

How? By focusing on import substitution and export expansion, said Mai.

This means promoting incentives to farmers for expansion and diversification of crops for export.

Among other things, the party promotes changes to the tax structure, such as removing general sales tax (GST) on goods used to produce commodities for export, duties on fuel prices and taxes on imports of goods used in the industry.

Mai hopes at least 15 percent of fuel consumption in the future will come from locally produced biofuel.

Belize should look to Mexico for a partial scope agreement on export, and take advantage of our partners to rebuild agriculture through an expanded program in schools.

Mai expects that Belizeans in the future will replace up to 50 percent of what we import to eat with local substitutes.

Mai also promises to revamp labour and make sure no one is overlooked, establish a mechanism for review and revamping of programs and elimination of waste and corruption.

Exports will be expanded at least 10 percent per year to reach $700 million in 5 years, reducing imports and poverty and decreasing unemployment and bringing in more revenue.

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