By Benjamin Flowers Staff Reporter
“Attempts by a minister to insult and threaten the largest taxpaying group in the country because he had not carefully read our press release is certainly not the wisest course of action for healthy partnership and development,” the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry said via press release Thursday.
The BCCI’s release was responding to the verbal assault Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber, made at Wednesday’s Special Sitting of the House of Representatives.
The Chamber clarified its position in its January 17th press release by saying its support for teachers receiving a salary adjustment was based on the premise that it be awarded on the basis of merit, and be implemented in phases over several years.
“The object of a merit-based increase is to motivate our teachers to consistently improve, which will only serve to better our country and our future generations,” BCCI explained.
BCCI also reminded the minister that it had recommended that the teachers should obtain their salary increase in phases.
“Being mindful of the limitations of the public purse, [the Chamber] suggested that any increase be phased in over a number of years, and must be merit-based,” BCCI added.
The release condemned Faber’s criticism of the organization’s decision to support the teachers.
“We find this alarming in a constitutional democracy which should encourage freedom of speech.”
Faber, in a 40-minute statement at the House, criticized the chamber for supporting the salary adjustments for the teachers, but not raising the minimum wage.
“I am saying, that if they are serious about giving the people a break, they will be riding those merchants who come under their watch, even if they are members or not,” Faber added, chiding the chamber for not pressuring businesses who he says over charge the Belizean people for goods.
Responding to Fabers’ accusations, the chamber emphasized that the high prices on goods are in many instances because good corporate citizens are burdened with disproportionate taxes.
BCCI also cited this “disproportionate amount of taxes”, which is paid by “good” corporate citizens, as one of the chief reasons there is a “diminished amount of resources with which to create jobs and pay employees.”
The Chamber also took the opportunity to allude to the recent scandal involving deputy minister Edmond Castro.
“As the largest taxpaying body in Belize, we also object to the notion that government ministers can treat statutory bodies within their portfolios as though they are their own private businesses.
“The suggestion of ignorance is no justification for the inappropriate actions of both ministers and the board governing the statutory body, both of which in our view, have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the public purse,” the Chamber added.