Chamber says slew of increases has business community on the edge
Electricity rates are going up by sixteen point eight-seven percent; that is the latest in a slew of increases that the business community is facing. According to the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the increases are putting the business community on the edge and businesses under serious financial pressure. Kay Menzies, the president of the Chamber says that to stay afloat, some businesses may need to make drastic cuts while others may not survive.
Kay Menzies, President, Belize Chamber of Commerce
“The view right now of the entire business community is how much are we to bear. As it is, we’ve had the situation the other day where our own public officials are going across the border to shop because things are “cheaper there.” We are facing increased electricity rates, higher trade license in some cases; there was an increase in minimum wage sometime last year and other increases along the way; we are sure are probably coming. And at some point in all of this, somebody has got to figure out that unless these cost start to come down or are offset by reduced costs in other places—and I will comment we had at least a decrease in internet rates—but if you keep increasing the costs, at some point something is going to give. And the business community is in pain and has been in pain for quite some time. The economy might nor might not be facing a fragile recovery. This is no way to ensure that that recovery lasts. And the fact is that between that, with fuel prices and everything else, businesses are under severe pressure and needing some help from somewhere to find some relief.”
“Can they handle this additional burden? How are they taking it at this point?”
“Some have already told us, even before the notice of the electricity increases came; that they are on the edge—that they are going to have to decide in 2013 whether or not they’ll continue. Others are being as philosophical as they can, but they are going to have to make cuts in order to find a way to pay the bills. We all know how that goes. At no point is this greeted with any kind of pleasure at all as you can imagine. I think it is a matter at this point of time of asking the government and we are asking the government, “Where exactly we can begin at bringing down the cost of doing business?” We have already asked for tax reform, we asked for a look at government’s own operations in terms of the cost of government is what we pay for in taxes. So if we can reduce the cost of government, we can reduce taxes and businesses will have an immediate cost reduction there in some respects. And other answers that if we work with government we can find the answer. But certainly it does not add to the situation when you have various municipal authorities saying well we are going to increase the trade license because you weren’t paying fairly anyway; not just the fine, the increases and simply take it. We are not in a position to just take it.”