Economic Indicator: unemployment levels at record high
In economic indicators tonight, the unemployment level is at a record high; the joblessness is highest among women and youths. In households across the country there is less or no income, which means no purchasing power, and less money in circulation. To add to the woes of the unemployed, the cost of living keeps going up. According to the Statistical Institute of Belize, in the eleven month period from February 2011 and January 2012, a one point three percent increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was recorded.
The highest increases were in food items, which spiked by three point nine percent. The prices increased across the board, including for basic food items which are a part of the daily consumption by Belizeans. For instance, the price of vegetables increased by as much as fourteen point seven percent as was the case for fresh produce such as black and red kidney beans. Other dietary staples such as oils and fats also rose by ten point one percent while products such as milk, cheese and eggs also peaked by seven point seven percent. Sea food went up by six point seven percent while chicken prices increased by five point two percent and just recently, there was an increase in the price of poultry of ten to twelve cents.
The spiraling cost of living hit daily commuters who experienced a four point three percent increase in the cost of transport services. There was an overall increase in gasoline and diesel prices which rose by six point eight percent. Overall, the highest rate of inflation, or where sharp increases of price are recorded, is in Belmopan, where consumer prices rose by an average of two point three percent. This is almost double the national inflation rate which is at one point three. The lowest price increases are in Orange Walk and San Ignacio/Santa Elena.
With unemployment and the job market looking dismal, the overall price increases in daily food items is putting a huge strain on Belizeans. A word of advice would be to spend on the basics and avoid the temptation of living above your means.
GST and the Economic Indicators
A country’s tax regime is always a key factor for any business or individual. In this segment the Great Belize Research Center looks at the general sales tax, the GST – which replaced the ‘Sales Tax’ in 2006. GST is a tax on consumer spending which is collected in stages, that is, at the point of importation and on business transactions when goods change hands or services are performed. There are currently one hundred and eighty-three thousand, eight hundred and ninety businesses registered to pay GST. In aggregate, according to the Ministry of Finance, in 2011 one hundred and seventy million, one hundred and twenty-eight thousand, five hundred and forty dollars were collected in GST. For the year 2012, that figure is expected to increase to two hundred and one million, nine hundred and thirty-three thousand, six hundred and eighty-two dollars since GST was introduced on fuel products such as gasoline, kerosene, and diesel.
According to the Income Tax department, any business that makes or intends to make sales or gross revenues of seventy-five thousand dollars or more per annum must register and pay GST. Likewise for businesses which have been in operation for less than twelve months with taxable sales or revenues of six thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars per month must also register for GST. The GST is effectively a ‘value added tax’ becoming payable at each stage in the supply chain. On April first, 2010, the rate of GST was increased from ten to twelve point five percent.
There are, however, some goods and services which are exempt, including some financial services and gambling supplies while some other taxable supplies may be zero-rated, or standard-rated, at twelve point five percent. For instance some zero-rated items include, exported goods and services; some food items for human consumption, such as water supply. There are also other taxes that contribute to the government coffers; tax on real estate is ten percent while corporate income tax is a whopping thirty-five percent. Principal taxes in Belize are collected on import and export duties, income tax, revenue replacement duty, stamp duties and excise on spirits, beer and cigarettes.
These statistics are glaring revelations as to the inhumanity and oppression by the government on poor Belizeans whose 60% population go to bed hungry every night. Another revelation is that businesses pay taxes on gross revenues. This is contra to General Accepted Accounting and Financial Principles. I am dumbfounded that these ” bright boys” chartered accountants and cpa’s haven’t objected to this mindless governmental deficiency. Finally if we have a population of 312,000 and 183,890 businesses registered to pay GST, then each person owns 1.7 businesses despite the depressed economy. Again, it is revealed that GST is a tax on goods already taxed at the Customs Department . So how can Belize develop with so many layers of taxation? I predict economic collapse if measures are not taken to overhaul the economy.
Why are gambling supplies exempt from taxes? If anything is a pure luxury that can be highly taxed, it is gambling!
I hope someone can explain the math of our GST system to me, because it doesn’t add up in regular math.
1. The threshold for collecting GST is $75,000/year.
2. GST is 12.5%, which is one-eighth of total sales.
3. That means each registered or qualifying business would collect A MINIMUM of just over $9,000/year in GST. [0ne-eighth of $75,000].
4. There are 183,000 qualifying business.
5. They PAY TO THE GOVERNMENT $171,000,000 per year.
6. That means, on average, each qualifying business PAID less than $1,000, but COLLECTED more than $9,000.
7. Where did the missing GST money go?
I didn’t realize the system was so inefficient and essentially random until I saw these figures and did the math. GOB would be swimming in cash if it actually collected the GST rate it inflicts on us.
There’s probably an interesting story for some enterprising reporter, or a humorous explanation from the DPM.
I say lower the rates to collect what is actually needed for GOB to function at a constitutional level, and make sure the taxes are collected and PAID TO THE GOVERNMENT. What we seem to have is a big windfall of secret profit for businesses that collect GST and don’t remit it to GOB. I hope the Financial Investigations Unit will make harsh examples of some businesses that cheat taxes that way.
GOB’s tax dept. will need to gather detailed information of customers from importers, agents, and distributors. Business owners could withhold invoices of purchases made. Remember a business pays GST base on accounting records. If a business owner withheld a $500 invoice of purchases from his store, by the end of the month he could very well, in his accounting record – cash sale, not to report a $600 – $1000 sale base on his percentage of mark-up. The argument is: If I didn’t purchase the $500 worth of items to be sold in the store, how could I have that $600 – $1000 sales to be accounted for in my records? Thus, no GST for the tax dept on that amount – [($600 to $1000) x 12.5%] is loss in GOB’s revenue.
Personal income tax is also an issue that the GOB has to look closely especially when it comes to the service sector, such as, certain doctors, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, etc. who operate and manage their own business affairs. They could easily manipulate their income because many of their clients don’t need receipt or any type of paperwork after the completion of the service. How could the GOB address that? A service professional could have 5 clients for the day, but he could very well, in his ‘records’ showed only 1 or 2 clients for the day or even no clients at all.