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#334691 - 04/25/09 06:18 PM Pump prices climbing again
Marty Offline
- PM Barrow shifts position on new gas tax

Belizean consumers are fed up of being battered by high pump prices, and while experts don’t expect oil prices to hit the record highs they did in the latter half of 2008, locally there are concerns that pump prices appear to be jumping too high too fast after the major relief consumers enjoyed last year, with prices dipping to as low as $5 a gallon.

The days of $5 gas are evidently over – at least for now - but some consumers are concerned that a new $1.00 tax that Government implemented this month on gasoline and diesel has made pump prices too high at a time when food prices have stubbornly refused to recede and cost of living remains high.

When he introduced the new $1.00 gas tax in his 2009/2010 budget, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow, announced that while the tax was being levied to help stop the gap in the new budget, he was committing to undertaking a review of the tax should the prices go significantly beyond $7 for gasoline and $6 for diesel.

Today, premium gasoline is $7.66 a gallon and diesel is $6.13.

Barrow promised that, “If for any reason these turn out to be significantly higher than the experts predict, it is my promise that we would then come back and take off as much of this dollar increase as would put things back in alignment for the Belizean people.”

Today, Prime Minister Barrow told the media that they would have to start putting on their thinking caps when prices go beyond $8.00.

In response to a query from our newspaper, Prime Minister Barrow said that recent developments on the world market indicate that when the next shipment of fuel comes in, Belize will likely experience a fall in prices at the pumps. (It is the Government that sets by law the prices that consumers pay at the pumps.)

Barrow also clarified that while the gas tax is a dollar, the net effect is a bigger charge, since the tax is cumulatively charged on some other taxes levied on gas imports.

Before Barrow’s budget speech, a gallon of premium gasoline cost only $6.03. The levying of the new tax came simultaneously with an increase in other parts of the price formula, resulting in a jump by $1.32 for premium gasoline. Today, premium gasoline costs roughly $1.60 more than it did only three weeks ago – an increase of 27%.

Also at this afternoon’s press conference, Prime Minister Barrow said that while he was unable to get up-to-date inflation figures from the Statistical Institute of Belize, international news reports were indicating inflation decreased in March in the US by 0.4% over the same period in 2008. This is the first time this has happened in 50 years, said Barrow, adding that food and commodities prices had gone down in January, and since most of Belize’s inflation is imported inflation, it means that prices should have already been falling here, too.

If not, said Barrow, “something is radically wrong,” and the Ministry of Consumer Protection will have to step up its watchdog efforts, he added.

As for pump prices, which Government controls, Barrow told the media that pump prices and acquisition costs have not yet increased to the extent that would make the Government feel it has to again forbear some of its revenues from gas taxes by shaving off some of the tax charged at the pump.

P.M. Barrow continues to make the argument that he needs the revenues to finance the year’s budget.

Amandala

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#334694 - 04/25/09 06:23 PM Re: Pump prices climbing again [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Fuel and butane prices up again

Belizeans across the country got a double whammy this past week and had to dig deeper into their pockets as both fuel and butane prices witnessed a sharp increase.

Fuel prices have gradually climbed upward, closing the gap to the $10 mark - almost the highest price Belizeans have ever paid per gallon of fuel in history.
That was just five months ago, before government implemented its new tax regime, which pushed prices at the pump to an all time low, almost 50% less than what consumers had been paying.

Prices at the pump increased an average of thirty five cents on Monday night, April 20, to well over the $7 mark - a price the Barrow government promised it would not reach.

Premium gasoline went from $7.35 a gallon to $7.66 a gallon, while regular went from $6.99 to $7.30 a gallon and diesel rose from $5.69 to $6.13 per gallon.

These prices reflect an average increase of two dollars, since the beginning of the year, with the biggest increase taking place on Wednesday April 1, when fuel prices jumped an average of a dollar and thirty cents due to the $1.00 tax imposed by the government.

The largest drop took place in November of last year when fuel prices fell an average of three dollars, but the prices have been fluctuating since with gradual increases, and today it stands just under three dollars less than what consumers had been paying before November 5, when it stood at a little over the $10 mark.

Oil prices on the international market have been averaging at around US $50 per barrel, compared to the all time high of US $147 per barrel back in July of last year.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow, at his quarterly press conference Wednesday, says the increases had more to do with the acquisition cost of fuel and not necessary his government new tax regime.

He said government has no immediate plans on revisiting its tax structure, only if pump prices jump over the $8 mark.

He noted that should prices on the international market increase, so will government revenue from the sale of crude oil in Belize.

This he observed, will very well strikes a balance where government revenue will increase hence allowing government to keep pump prices below the $8 mark.

Consumers are fairing a little better with butane prices, as they are paying far less than what they were paying prior to August of last year when a 100 pound cylinder sold for $132.

Today the same cylinder sells for $90, after a $3 increase which took effect last Saturday, April 18 countrywide.

A 100 pound cylinder prior to last Saturday was $87 in Belize City. Consumers in the Stann Creek and Toledo district are the ones who continue to pay the highest prices, with Dangriga consumers paying $94 and those in Punta Gorda paying $95 per hundred pound cylinder.

The Reporter

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