BELIZE CITY, Sat. Feb. 6, 2021– The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and a number of other domestic organizations and international agencies have all strongly maintained that Belize’s public sector wage bill greatly exceeds the relative benchmark for a country of our size, and that such a large bill has placed severe strain on our finances, and is no longer sustainable.
In a recent press release, however, the Chamber of Commerce acknowledged that wage cuts are controversial and would cause public outrage, so it pointed instead to attrition (the gradual reduction of the workforce that occurs through retirements and resignations, without additional hiring to fill those spots) as another possible tool for addressing the budget deficit. This would gradually reduce the wage bill, for rehiring would be done at a slower rate than the natural rate of retirement and resignation, the BCCI further said in its release.
The BCCI release went on to refer to other substantial measures that would yield far greater returns, and these measures should precede wage cuts of any sort. These include closing tax loopholes; requiring businesses that once evaded tax payments to pay their fair share in taxes; instituting a hiring freeze; conducting thorough payroll audits; establishing a set staff replacement to staff retiree/resignee ratio; adding gradual reforms to the public sector pensions, including increasing the age of retirement; and working in collaboration with unions to address cost-saving measures.
Nonetheless, BCCI says that if the Government of Belize still considers wage cuts its most viable option, it would be advisable to proceed with certain safeguards in place. These would include the exclusion of essential workers from wage cuts, since their morale is of utmost importance during a pandemic, and ensuring that salary cuts are progressive so that those workers on lower pay scales are less impacted than those on higher scales.
“The BCCI states that it will not object if it is that the Government ultimately decides that this is the most prudent option, after it has judiciously weighed its benefits and costs,” the BCCI release concluded.