The last major item that was debated this afternoon was the amendment to the General Sales Tax Act. It promises to close the loophole that allowed the Caribbean Court of Justice to affirm that tour operators are zero-rated for tax purposes and allow them to collect millions they paid in GST for the last 12 years. The debate continued until later this afternoon but the Senator for the Business Community, Mark Lizarraga, told us that the amendment goes beyond its stated purpose. He says it will impact much of Belize's business climate and send a poor signal to future investors - that they will need to watch their backs.
Mark Lizarraga, Senator - Business Community
"Well its goes wide and beyond just the tour operators and in fact now we believe that this case has set precedence so to speak and that many other can now jump on the bandwagon and say look you collected taxes from me in an illegal manner, taxes that I should not have paid. So there's that possibility. But the biggest thing here is the message that it sends to investors that a judgement can come in your favor or against you way down the road against government and now the government certainly feels that its has the right with the stroke of a pen to wipe away a judgement that took you years to get against them. So how would people feel now when they do business in Belize or when they do business with government? If government owes, they just have to sign something, send it to parliament and don't pay. It sends that bad signal to investors that we do not have separation of powers. The courts have made a ruling. The courts have said you need to pay, you need to settle, you need to return the money. Monies that you collected in error and now government is saying, no, I don't have the money, so I will pass a law and I don't pay. And then there is the whole matter of how government decides what bills it can and what bills it cannot and what investment it will make and what investments it doesn't. But again, I believe that this is matter that we could have resolved, but too many times we see things drags on and on and when they are finally settled in our country, we, the tax payers are faced with a huge bill, because of the inability of our administration to deal with them in a timely and effective manner."