BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 1, 2022
In exactly one month, the minimum wage will be increased from $3.30 to $5.00 an hour. Prime Minister John Briceño confirmed this earlier this week when asked by a local media about the timeline for the implementation of the increase.
The last time the minimum wage was increased was in May 2012, over 10 years ago. A Minimum Wage Task Force was set up in March of this year, and in July, government, with the assistance of a consultancy agency, PPF Capital Belize Limited, began consultations with stakeholders on the implementation of the $5-dollar minimum wage.
A few days ago, the Minister of Labor, Hon. Oscar Requena, announced that those consultations were completed, and that a final report, entitled the ”Plan for the Gradual Implementation of the Five-Dollar Minimum Wage” had been submitted. Minister Requena further announced last week that on January 1, New Year’s Day, the new minimum wage will come into effect.
Concerns about possible layoffs and the raising of prices of goods and services by businesses to meet the additional salary expense have been raised by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). The BCCI has stated that it supports the increase in the minimum wage, but has suggested a phased approach to the increase in order to give businesses time to prepare for, and possibly avert, any financial fallout.
“We aren’t advocating for an overnight shift from $3:30 to $5.00, definitely not, but we feel that there can be a middle ground where there are the increases that can be planned for and then of course over a reasonable period of time that we do get to that five-dollar price point or salary range,” the president of BCCI, Marcello Blake, said during an interview in July.
At the time, he stated that a formula to calculate and adjust the minimum wage gradually would be more feasible, to ensure that businesses have time to plan for the changes, and that employees currently collecting wages in the $5-an-hour range be given a proportionate salary increase as well.
The report from PPF Capital is set to be presented to the Cabinet for any final modifications or tweaks. During last week’s interview, Minister Requena said that they have worked closely with stakeholders, including the BCCI, and are convinced that they have to increase the minimum wage at this time, given the increased cost of living and the reality of inflation.
“So, we will continue the discussion. I am certain that at the end of the day cooler heads will prevail, and we want to be fair. We want to ensure the wealth distribution ends up in an equitable manner so that all Belizeans can benefit,” Hon. Requena said.