December 29, 2015
Dear Mr. Editor:
With the holly and jolly of the Christmas season came tidings of shock, upset and outrage. This is mainly because as the holiday season was wrapping up came the distasteful news that once again, the cost of fuel would be going up. It created major stir and sent tidal shockwaves across the country, both to motorists and non-motorists. The cost of diesel, regular and premium fuel rose by .81 cents, .97 cents and .72 cents, respectively.
This unprecedented spike at the pumps left Belizeans flabbergasted, as it comes at a time when world oil prices are at their lowest and have been consistently trending down for the past eleven plus years, and are forecasted to dip even lower.
While the people were scrambling for an answer or at least an explanation to this unprecedented spike at the pumps, through means of a press release we were made aware that the reason for the sharp spike in fuel cost is because of an increase on the fuel import duty so as to try to clog the gaping hole of revenue losses from the almost depleted oil wells in the West. This basically means, in layman’s terms, that once again, undue pressure has been placed on the back of the Belizean people to rescue the country’s ailing economy.
Whether we want to see it or not, we need to call a spade a spade, and in so doing this move can be categorized as an unprecedented form of “taxation without an explanation.” This is a way for the government to meet their obligations and get a sort of boost or jumpstart into the new and upcoming year.
Truth of the matter is, this is an undue and unfair responsibility being placed on the backs of the Belizean consumers. And also consumers, and not only motorists, will feel the pinch of this move. This move is a sort of negative rippling effect that is rather synonymous with the all too familiar cliché of the “domino effect”.
With this move, all consumers across the length and breadth of the country will have to bear the brunt of this. Fuel (like money) drives a country; and when that push is too high, the force to move it becomes much greater and more demanding. Therefore, as a nation we could brace ourselves and look forward to a possible imminent increase in various other items that we depend on day to day for our nourishment and necessary survival.
Finally, besides the fact that we are constantly paying more for fuel when the world around us is paying considerably less, what was even more daunting is the fact that it was completely unexpected that the economy needed an infusion of extra revenues. This is due to the fact that we were constantly being told and assured that our economy is doing well and that the coffers are overflowing. Really? And if so, to what extent?
While to the majority of us the timing was off and unexpected, the timing was actually precise. The best time to increase the cost on something is when it is already really low. The analogy has it that the people won’t feel it “that much” because the cost is already low, so who cares, while the beneficiaries enjoy an unprecedented greater income and revenue return. It is as simple as that. The truth of the matter, however, is that if the prices go up by a penny, it is a penny too much!
Nonetheless, in concluding, it is about time that we open our eyes and smell the coffee! Things aren’t getting any better, and observing and following the trend, it will only get worse. However, in all this “gloomy cloud of gas” that looms over our head, the Government press release offered us consolation and encouraged us to not worry, but keep heart because world fuel prices are set to drop again, and when they do, then we, the Belizean consumers, will experience some reprieve and enjoy some stability at the pump.
Well, that’s encouraging news, but whether or not it’s worth banking on is another story. Like everything else, we will just have to wait and see how much more good, or better, is on the horizon to come.
R. A. Neal