Since his Budget presentation on March 9th when Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced GOB’s proposed tax measures for fiscal year 2018-2019, the agriculture sector has come out to condemn GOB’s decision long and hard, especially as it relates to the exemptions on General Sales Tax to be implemented against agricultural services such as land preparation, harvesting and crop dusting and G.S.T. being added to data services. Late last week the three sugar cane farmers’ associations came together as one to ask GOB to refrain from legislating these tax measures. The Belize Agro-Productive Sector Group among others have also complained that, if implemented, these costs will eventually be passed down to consumers. Yesterday during a press conference with the media Opposition Leader John Briceño sided with the productive sector, questioning whether GOB was properly advised prior to this announcement.
Honorable John Briceno – Party Leader People’s United Party
“I met with the leaders of the three cane farmers’ associations. I met this morning with some of the Mennonites, and we’ve met with some of the agro-producers and the Chamber of Commerce. This is a stupid idea that the Prime Minister came [with] where he’s trying to tax the farmers. When it comes to the cane farmers, by taxing harvesting of the cane, it means they’re going to charge G.S.T. to the harvesting by machine, the harvester, and the transportation, the way it is worded. In the north, we are having a shortage of cane cutters, and the ones that are still there, the prices have gone up to cut the cane and to load it – it’s hard work. And because of that, the farmers are almost at the point of losing money. So working with B.S.I., they have a project where they have a harvester that would cut and load your cane, and that has been reducing the cost by approximately seven dollars a ton. But once you start to include the G.S.T. to land preparation and then to cut it and to load it and to transport it, they believe that the little monies they have been saving with that is going to disappear under the G.S.T. that the Prime Minister has presented. Everybody uses data, internet. Ten years ago, probably only a small group of the society was using data; a few businesses were using access to the internet but now everybody uses data. From the richest of Belizeans to the poorest of Belizeans; from the biggest company to the smallest company or business in Belize, everybody needs data. And now the Prime Minister is adding another tax on them, which is going to hurt the poor people but especially the middle class that feels that they are the ones that feeding the tax burden in this country.”