By Shanique Richards
St. Kitts Reporter
The government’s price control policy has been implemented with immediate effect says Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Industry and Commerce, Hon. Timothy Harris.
The Minister made the announcement on Thursday when he briefed the local media on the Statutory Rules and Order (SRO) relating to the issue.
“I am pleased to report that after much research and debate, Cabinet has determined that some 29 items would now be the subject of a new price control order. The items comprise of the basic food items such as chicken and meat (frozen), fish and salted meat, Vienna sausage, corn meal, dried peas, cereal, butter, margarine, pasta products, cheddar cheese, sardines, tuna fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, lard and substitutes, cooking oil and rice.
Also, non-food items such as tooth paste, toilet paper, soap (medicated), detergents (powdered), disposable diapers for adults and children, hypertensive agents, anti-diabetic agents, anti-cholesterol drugs, and glaucoma drugs are also the subject of the statutory order.
“We have priced the markup of 20% of the landing cost at the wholesale end in relation to frozen items and dry goods listed and a retail markup on the wholesale price of 30% with respect to the relevant frozen goods listed, 20% dry goods and 35% pharmaceutical products. The markups proposed here are very reasonable and in some cases they are the exact markup proposed by the Industry of Chamber and Commerce and in other cases they are lower,” said Harris.
While the distributor cannot have a higher markup than is stipulated under the price control, the minister explained, it could be lower.
Min. Harris stated that the Distribution Act of 1968 provides for penalties to be imposed by law and that persons can be convicted for selling goods at a price in excess of the maximum price specified. He stated that these penalties include fines, confinement and custodial sentencing.
“Government intends to improve on the penalties prescribed by law for breeches of this new regulation and these penalties must be serious. We need to have compliance if this is going to make sense. The effectiveness of the price control measures relies on all.
“Government also intends to strengthen the monitoring of compliance of the SRO by increasing the number of inspectors available to visit our wholesalers, supermarkets and bakeries both in town and the rural areas. These areas will be closely monitored in the next few weeks to confirm if this strategy brings much needed price stability on this particular basket of items,” said Minister Harris.
However in relation to any adjustment to import duties on certain goods, the minister was very vague in his response and stated that the public will be informed about this matter at a later date.
“Government will be reviewing the levels of duties and taxes which are currently applied at our ports of entry. Custom duties and consumption taxes make up a significant portion of government’s overall revenue and this is vital to funding the wide range of services provided to the public by government including critical services in health and education and other social welfare deliveries. Adjusting percentages at the point of importation is therefore a very delicate exercise which much be designed and implemented in such a manner that it does not ultimately hurt the very same consumer who it is intended to protect and assist,” he said.
Min. Harris did say, however, that government will make a specific announcement in relation to the measures ‘some time in the future’.