COST OF LIVING UNDERPINS BCCI’s “MEET THE MINISTER” EVENT: Still no deadline for amended basket of goods
The Cost of Living in Barbados, often referred to as ‘priority number one, two and three for government’, was the focus of this morning’s Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (BCCI) Meet the Minister session.
The first in what will become a series of events hosted by the BCCI, this morning’s assembly featured Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn, who spoke about government’s strategies – both those in effect and those to come – to improve the current situation experienced by Barbadian consumers.
Minister Benn revealed that the “basket of consumer items is under our microscope right now [and] we have submitted a paper to Cabinet. It has been looked at and suggestions [have been] made by members of Cabinet, and in a short period of time, I suspect in the new financial year starting in April, we will be able to roll out [an] amended basket of consumer items.”
A National Policy Framework: A Fair Price for All, was also unveiled during the Minister’s presentation. Its vision is “for Barbados to become a relatively competitive jurisdiction, for people to live, invest and conduct commercial activities in a sustainable manner”. Mr. Benn noted that the comments received on the document from the BCCI were appreciated, and the Framework would be on Cabinet’s agenda tomorrow.
Senator Benn listed some of the objectives within the framework, which included: “to contain and reduce the cost of food where possible; to make housing and land more affordable to the average Barbadian; to reduce the cost of production by lowering transaction costs, utility costs and dependence on fossil fuels; implementing institutional and regulatory reforms; and building and strengthening partnerships”.
Achieving these goals, the Commerce Minister stated, could be assisted through reduced reliance on water resources from the Barbados Water Authority; increased use of alternative energy solutions; and audits of public utility suppliers to determine if claimed costs were reasonable.
“We provided price support to the manufacturers of animal feed and flour,” the Minister said, in listing some of government’s efforts. He added, “we established a broad-based, consultative committee and we’ve continued to meet…to look for solutions. We continue to monitor the commodity prices at retail outlets...[and print] our monthly publication of prices of items in the basket of goods,” he noted.
“ …A lot of money has been put into the tourism sector to avoid layoffs [and] market this country abroad…if the tourism sector, our strongest foreign exchange earner, should falter, it would obviously impact very heavily on the cost of living in this country….” Mr. Benn noted. He also alluded to work which could be accomplished in housing and in agriculture, suggesting that the future of agriculture rested in the 4H movement and young farmers; “ …We do not want to forfeit our future,” he declared.
The Minister also stressed that mitigating the cost of living could also be aided if businesses reviewed their current mark-up percentages – which were tripled on some pharmaceutical items – products for example, food items.
He also noted that the cost of doing business, especially in the realm of construction, was important, since “[if] you applied for permission to do something, acted professionally, and drew a timeline” then persons could invest in Barbados. “These things impact on the cost of living, as it impacts on their cost and they pass it on to somebody [else],” he added. (INFO COURTESY - NH/BGIS)