Archive for March, 2011

No New Taxes in Belize Budget

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

As it has been discussed recently, when discussing Belize’s fiscal policy ahead of the Budget, Belize Prime Minister said the government is not planning any new taxes in the coming fiscal year as tax revenues rebound.

The Budget was introduced on March 11, and it can be seen that the Belizean Prime Minister has kept his pledge to introduce no new taxes on businesses or the public. Instead, his 2011 Budget pushed for improved fiscal administration.

When introducing the Budget Statement and Estimates for the fiscal year 2011-2012, Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dean Barrow said that the Budget was designed “to avoid the need for any tax increases that would place a burden on local businesses, employees or the general public”. Taking into consideration the current difficult economic situation, “there is a limit to increasing taxes before we run the risk of encountering decreasing marginal returns; and, more importantly, before such taxes become a disincentive to investment and growth”. So, improved administration and stepped-up collection is what is to be emphasized.

In his Budget, Barrow released estimates for the present and upcoming financial years. The revised total revenue estimates for 2010-2011 are currently BZD 739.8 million, with the proposed estimates for 2011-2012 at BZD 843.6 million. A GDP growth of 2.4% was seen by the jurisdiction in 2010, while Barrow’s forecast for 2011 is 3%.

US worries about Money Laundering in Belize

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

A number of Caribbean countries have been assailed by the US for their alleged continued facilitation of money laundering and financial crimes. Belize was one of the jurisdictions under such concerns.

In the second part of the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), the United States’ State Department was particularly concerned about efforts made by Belize in addressing these crimes.

While Belize is not a major regional financial centre, according to the State Department, it is an offshore financial centre encouraging the growth of offshore financial activities vulnerable to money laundering, including offshore banks, insurance companies, trust service providers, mutual fund companies, and international business companies.

The report said that most money laundering is “largely thought to be related to proceeds from US residents participating in unlawful Internet gaming”. It also states: “There is a growing indication that money laundering proceeds are related to proceeds from the trafficking of illegal narcotics, psychotropic substances, and chemical precursors, and that they are controlled by local drug-trafficking organisations and organised criminals”.

According to the report issued by the State Department, Belizean officials suspect money laundering to occur mainly within the free trade zones. “Belizean officials believe the large Corozal Commercial Free Zone (CFZ) that operates at the border with Mexico is involved in trade-based money laundering”.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report said that the jurisdiction lacks the resources to effectively enforce anti-money laundering rules, pointing out that Belize’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has a “broad mandate” that is “severely understaffed.” So, there should be appropriate training or experience in identifying, investigating, reviewing, and analysing evidence in criminal cases.

Other jurisdictions under concerns about money laundering and financial crime discussed by the INCSR were the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda.

Prime Minister concerned by Quinn oil firm

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow has intervened in a row at an oil company, which is largely Irish-owned and a director of which is yoga guru Tony Quinn.

Barrow has expressed concern that a legal battle involving Quinn and other directors of the oil company might disrupt the flow of oil in Belize and the revenues it brings. So, he has called on Belize Natural Energy (BNE) operating the only oil well in Belize to ensure that production is not disrupted as a result of the legal proceedings. It should be noted that BNE is a significant contributor to Belize’s economy as well as a vital element in its productive sector.

The row within BNE and its parent company, International Natural Energy, is set to come to a head at an annual general meeting scheduled to take place in Dublin in April. A director of INE Mr Quinn is being sued by another director, Paul Marriott.