Senate Says “No” GOB says “Yes” to departure tax increase

By Benjamin Flowers


The Government of Belize is still pushing the amendments to the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT) Amendment Act, 2017; which will raise the departure tax for tourists, despite the Senate rejecting the Bill on Monday.


The amendment will add an additional $32.50 dollar development tax, that visitors leaving Belize by air will have to pay. Money raised from the tax will go directly into the government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.


The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) has written to the Governor General expressing concerns that GOB’s push to pass the Bill without Senate approval will violate Section 78(1) of the constitution of Belize.


PUP Senator Valerie Woods told the Reporter on Thursday that the section prescribes a 30 day delay in passing the Bill, and that the Bill go back to the lower house for a resolution, before it goes to the Governor General.


She added that the opposition respects the rationalization that the PACT Amendment is a “money bill” but feels that the justification can be challenged in court.


Attorney General and Government Senator, Michael Peyrefitte, disputed the opposition’s interpretation of Section 78 (1) on Thursday in speaking with the Reporter. According to Peyrefitte, the section actually enables GOB to proceed directly to ascension, without returning to the the House of Representatives for a sesolution.


The Non0Governmental Organization community has been calling for GOB to remove the PACT amendment, since it was first proposed during the the Prime Minister’s Budget Presentation earlier this month.


The NGOs, while not opposed to an increase in the departure tax, said that the amount is too high and could adversely affect visitors coming to Belize. The NGOs also said that any revenues deriving from an increase in the departure tax should benefit the organizations which are co-managing national parks and other protected areas.


Others, however, have noted that the Amendment constitutes part of government’s 3 percent fiscal consolidation for the current fiscal year, which it agreed to during efforts to restructure the country’s only US dollar bonds. Failing to meet the fiscal consolidation target could jeopardize the terms of the newly restructured bond.

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