By Aaron Humes: With premium gasoline approaching 18 dollars as of yesterday, Tuesday, with the latest price hike, the Government of Belize has reiterated the various efforts it is making to cushion increases in prices for imported fuel, primarily for regular and diesel fuel.
Those efforts, it says, will not include an outright subsidy of imported fuel – underwriting in part or in whole the import acquisition cost: “Such a step would wreck the budget, put at risk public officers’ salaries and pensions, adversely affect the provision of essential public services including health, education, and social protection, and ultimately, flout a debt surge and devaluation.”
But the Government does promise to continue to hold diesel and regular gasoline prices at their current levels, in spite of the revenue losses. Prices for both remain capped at $13.50 and $13.36 respectively, as they have been since March. According to the Government, it has reduced excise taxes on each from $2.97 to less than a cent for diesel, and from $3.29 per gallon to 75 cents per gallon for regular despite acquisition costs increasing more than 300 percent (prices are from November 2020).
Belmopan and national fuel importer Puma Belize are working together to keep prices low and negotiations are ongoing for temporary reductions to certain importer and dealer margins to allow the government to accommodate even further increases in acquisition costs at the current fixed prices on diesel and regular gasoline.
Fuel cost relief programs are in place for key foreign currency-earning sectors such as sugar and banana and most recently tourism, as well as public transportation, i.e. buses.
In all, the Government has forgone nearly $9 million to date in import duties and forecasts a loss of $20 million in budget funding from fuel duties, or $55,000 daily.
The statement concludes that the government will continue its engagements with stakeholders – consumer groups, the importer, dealers, and others – seeking to keep prices down, encourage efficiency and support targeted relief for key sectors.