Best information to CTV-3 News is that the 2017-2018 revenue estimates or as it is better known, the Budget, will be presented by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in eleven days, on Monday, March 13th. The Government is keeping the numbers close its chest, because it is expected that the proposals will include various tax increases to close in a widening deficit gap. The PM recently confirmed in interviews that it will be a budget of pain, but said that his Government will try to make it least painful for Belizeans.
There has been much suspicion that among the taxes that will see adjustments is the General Sales Tax, which in 2008 was increased from 10% to 12.5%. It is believed that it could be going up as high as 15% in order for the Government to raise more revenue. Aside from an adjustment on the tax level, there could be changes to the list of zero-rated items, which includes some of the most basic food commodities. Some of the goods could be removed from the non-taxable list and see GST added to it.
Another tax that will see increases is the Government’s fuel tax, which the Government has kept on raising since last year to plug their over $100m deficit.
The increase in taxes, along with wage bill reduction and increased revenue collection, are measures proposed to the Government by the International Monetary Fund, the IMF.
One sector that is surely closely monitoring the Government’s plans is the private sector. Yesterday, we asked Business Senator Mark Lizarraga whether they had gotten any preliminary insight. While there was none, Senator Lizarraga did speak on why they believe any tax increase must be last resort.
Mark Lizarraga - Business Senator
“I think the Chamber has come out on record as to its recommendations and its position as to new taxes, we want to see certain things in place long before we talked about any new taxes, we want to see efficiencies in the way government spends its money, accounts for its money, we want to see transparency in the records of government, we want to see government truly make an effort to cut its waste, we want to see strong measures taken that will promote and will encourage confidence by the private sector for more investments for the creation of more jobs so there is a lot of things that the chamber is suggesting needs to be done, the holes need to be plugged, too many people are not paying taxes that should be paying taxes, so many taxes are not collected by government so there is a lot of things we believe that government can do before we sit down and have a serious conversation about raising taxes, those are the general items that we are looking at right now and we have not seen the proposed budget as yet but as soon as we presented with those number am sure you’ll be hearing from us again.”
After the budget is presented, the budget debate will follow two weeks after.