Close to a year after Government abolished the contentious National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), which saw the price of goods go up by ten per cent, one consumer rights advocate is concerned that retail prices are yet to go back down.
According to the Director General of the Barbados Consumers Research Organization (BARCRO), Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt, there is no evidence that prices in supermarkets and other retail stores have gone down to reflect the removal of the tax.
“It seems that some people think that although Government put a stop to the tax, they can keep the prices in the stores and supermarkets the same and no one will notice. The prices have never come down to show that the tax was removed,” Gibbs-Taitt complained.
Since Prime Minister Mia Mottley removed the levy in June during her mini Budget, businesses have maintained that it would take some time before it is reflected in the prices on the shelf, as old stock had to be first sold. However, the BARCRO head is adamant that more than enough time has passed for merchants to make the adjustment. He also charged that this was typical behaviour of many within the business sector.
“It is similar to what obtains when the price of fuel on the world market goes up. They tell you that they have to increase the price of their food items because the cost of transportation has gone up. However, when the price of fuel decreases far below what it was before, you never see those prices on food items reduced. These merchants can’t have their cake and eat it too because sooner or later there will be no cake,” he warned.
Gibbs-Taitt also argued that the ban on single use plastics should also result in some savings for the consumer, especially at the supermarket. He pointed out that supermarkets factor in the price of plastic bags in the cost of the groceries. The consumer rights advocate further noted that even though some have already stopped using plastic bags in their stores, there has been no reduction in prices.
“Come April 1, we are told that there would be no plastic bags issued and there are some stores who already stopped the issuing of plastic bags. To my knowledge these supermarkets put the price of those plastic bags in the price of their groceries. I am yet to see prices reduced on those items in those stores that have already stopped using plastic bags. Again, the merchants believe that they can get away with this,” he lamented.