A Government minister has asserted that despite the administration’s compact with the private sector that was aimed at reducing the high cost of living, the measure has not produced the expected relief since some companies have refused to hold up their end of the bargain.
Minister of Elder Affairs and People Empowerment Kirk Humphrey on Wednesday appealed to the guilty parties to do the right thing.
“I’ve seen in some of the bigger stores, prices that have not reflected the commitment that they made to the Government. I’ve seen it in smaller places as well.
“I am making a plea for the sake of the country for people to reduce that profit margin so that the poor, the needy, the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled, and the disenfranchised could eat. I am very concerned and very serious about it,” he told the media following a presentation of food supplies to his ministry and the Kiwanis Club of Barbados North by Carigro and Multinational Wholesalers, at the company’s headquarters in Six Roads, St Philip.
Humphrey acknowledged that some establishments were doing their best to reduce prices and make food more affordable for the poor, elderly, people with disabilities, and the most vulnerable.
However, he said he was concerned about the general cost of food in Barbados.
“I understand that a lot of it is due to the disruptions in the supply chain. I know that the base cost of items has also gone up. But I feel, especially in cases where Government has made arrangements for prices to come down, we have not seen that reduction in the prices that we expected to see and something cannot be right,” he said.
“I feel prices could be lower. I have seen cases where, when you look at all the costs considered, the prices should not be as high as they are.”
In July, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced a Social Partners Food Prices Compact that would result in a reduction of prices on 47 items for a six-month period. In addition to the expected overall drop in the cost of food governed by the compact, Value Added Tax (VAT) was taken off a number of items and duty removed from some citrus items.
Signatories to the agreement promised their markups would be no higher than between 12 and 15 per cent.
However, Minister Humphrey said markups remained high and were putting vulnerable groups at more of a disadvantage.
He urged businesses to think about the greater good and not just profits.
“At the end of the day, we live in a Barbados where everybody has to be able to eat and I am very concerned that if these prices remain at the level that they are at, the poor in Barbados will not be able to continue to survive,” Humphrey said.
“So we are making another plea to the business community, the persons in Barbados who control the prices, to put prices in such a way that yes, they reduce your profit margin but all of us have to take a hit. They take a hit so that other people can survive the hit they are facing.
“Barbados must remain a principle-driven country that you have to take a little bit so that people can eat too,” he added. (SZB)