By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
People’s United Party (PUP) leader Francis Fonseca said that Belize’s economy is stagnant and economic reform in necessary for Belize to move forward.
Fonseca told The Reporter that the basis of his economic reform is about transforming the Belizean economy by fuelling private sector growth.
“It’s very important for us to understand that if we’re going to grow the economy in Belize it has to be led by the private sector,” said Fonseca.
“The government can’t replace the private sector and you can’t try to do that because it’s unsustainable,” Fonseca said.
He advised that government should partner with the private sector by creating an environment of investment in an effort to revive the economy and encourage Belize’s exports.
With exports down Fonseca said that it is absolutely necessary for Belize to boost its level of exports to remain viable in the global economy. He said that his party is looking at ways to facilitate the expansion of Belizean exports.
He added that critical areas of the economy they have considered include the current tax structure and the level of confidence in the economy.
Fonseca said that his party is looking at ways to make the tax system more equitable and more attractive for both foreign and domestic investment.
He added that a national discussion about the tax system in Belize is necessary.
He stated that there should be a more incentive based tax structure to allow business owners to invest in their businesses with less risk.
Fonseca also spoke about restoring confidence in the economy as being critical to development and growth. He explained that many investors are unsure about the conditions of investing in Belize.
He added that it is for this reason that his party, in consultation with the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and the private sector, has considered a Foreign Investment Promotion Act that will set out in clear terms the requirements for investing in Belize.
Fonseca said there is no currently existing law that clearly outlines the terms for investment in Belize and added that the government’s role in the economy is to regulate markets and create stability.
“If we’re not able to grow the economy, if we’re not able to create new opportunities for people, we won’t be able to deal with any of the other issues,” Fonseca said.
He also said that he thought it was important to look at ways of reducing the cost of fuel because fuel prices affect virtually every other area of investment.
Fonseca asserted that Belize should look at the opportunity to expand commercial relationships with neighbours like Mexico.
Mexico, with its massive population, not only provides a market for Belizean exports but also creates employment opportunities for Belizeans.
Over the past several years Mexico, by virtue of proximity to the U.S. and benefit of less tariffs, has become the world’s largest exporter of flat screen TV’s by assembling parts manufactured in Asia.
Fonseca said that if Belize were to develop a manufacturing sector the country could be able to contribute to and share in the expansion of regional industries.
Fonseca also spoke of the Welfare-to-Work program introduced in the PUP’s social justice agenda earlier this year.
He said that the establishment of such a program would essentially help to provide a cushion for citizens who qualify for the program while aiming to help them rejoin the workforce.
Fonseca explained that the objective of the PUP program would be to encourage citizens to get back to contributing to the Belizean economy.