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The fuel furore: What can be done?

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Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2022. 10:38 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: This evening, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John Briceno announced that as much as it will hurt the Government, “Government decides [on] action… will absorb the impact as we try to adjust to external factors of the fuel sector.”

He continued to explain, “The rise in fuel prices [is] a global situation resulting from a complex web of issues… industry and production specific as well as geopolitical issues. For small open vulnerable economies like Belize, we have no control except to try to adjust nationally specific factors. Every adjustment has an economic and financial impact.”

And he told reporters on Tuesday before his meeting with the social partners today that we are facing a “crisis.”

A graphic accompanying the Prime Minister’s post detailed that taxes on diesel fuel had been lowered by 35 percent (from $2.97 to $1.94 per figures provided by Financial Secretary Joseph Waight) to cap the price at $13.41 per gallon – before prices went up at midnight. Without the cut, it said, prices would have gone to $14.70.

Government reiterated its commitment to doing what was “responsible and socially conscious to provide relief at the pump,” but what exactly is that?

On Tuesday, the P.M. said he would keep his cards close to his chest ahead of today’s meeting, and today we understand that each of the social partners was to present its own strategies and targets. He told Channel 5 News that “the government is open to prudent recommendations that will be beneficial across the board.”

Senator-elect for the non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), Janelle Chanona, reported to Channel 5 News, “So the invitation for this meeting was to discuss and to bring to the table targeted measures and recommendations and what each of the memberships that we represent are talking about and suggesting. We all look at it from our perspectives and therefore we may see things or opportunities that may not be immediately evident to everyone else.”

Chanona further highlighted that in the case of protection of marine conservation zones, organizations invest in up to 32 thousand gallons of fuel to patrol the seas and much of their budgets come from fixed grants and if that funding is not available, cutbacks would unavoidably have to be made. She also noted that this would have “ripple effects” on our ability to project management of our external debt through recently agreed to conservation efforts like the Blue Bond.

Today, a tweet from U.S. President Joe Biden noted that oil is currently trading at US$96 per gallon, down from recent highs, but that average prices for gas across America remain above $4 a gallon. He chided, “Oil and gas companies shouldn’t pad their profits at the expense of hard-working Americans.”

The recommendations from the social partners will be presented to the Prime Minister on Friday.

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