Web Database To Help Cut Costs

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Looking to shop around and find the best prices for your money? Well, in a matter of weeks persons will be able to go online and have access to food prices at the various supermarkets around the island.

This new initiative, the brainchild of the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, will see the launch of a web-enabled database next month. And, as a result, individuals ???watching their pennies??? will be able to make informed decisions about how to spend their monies and which supermarkets are offering the best deals.

According to Chief Economist in the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Michael Wason, it was necessary that a database be designed, formulated and implemented to allow for the monitoring of international and domestic food prices, price trends and international and domestic fuel prices.

In an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, the Chief Economist explained that the Ministry developed a web-enabled database to provide more effective data collection and analytical tools to assist in the formulation of national policies and strategies to reduce the cost of living.

???This database will provide public access to consumers to assist them with monitoring the prices of basic consumer items. In addition, the web-enabled database relies exclusively on prices of food and non-food items collected by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs for 53 food headings, and 25 non-food headings which are approximately 350 items???These prices are collected on a monthly basis from 22 supermarkets and are used to monitor domestic prices,??? Mr. Wason added.

Noting that finding the right method to inform the public about price movements was not without its challenges, he stated that through trial and error the Ministry finally decided on a web-enabled database.

???The Ministry has the responsibility for informing the public on price movements and keeping them up-to-date on any change in prices, and this was usually done via the print media where every other week or once a month we would apprise the public. The problem with that data was the fact that the information presented to the public was dated. It was collected three or four weeks prior to being published, so we were giving dated information to the public on prices that existed previously. We thought that that was not the most efficient way and there had to be a better way. So, we decided we would look at a new approach to informing members of the public on the pricing in that basket of goods and we did that via a database,??? the Chief Economist explained.

Officials from the requisite departments will check the prices of food items at the various supermarkets across the island and through their hand-held devices enter the information in real time, therefore, within the same day the public would be aware of the current food prices.

And, as the Chief Economist pointed out: ???Persons can enter the list of items they want to purchase and it would tell them the price of that basket of goods that you selected. You can then select the supermarkets that you want to look at and it would tell you the prices of that same basket that you just selected at all the outlets.???

Mr. Wason also noted that increasing international food commodity prices presented significant challenges, particularly to developing and net food importing countries such as Barbados. He further added that in some developing countries, increased food prices have led to reduced food security, increased poverty, declining consumer purchasing power, increased social unrest, and the erosion of many social and economic advancements. It has also affected vulnerable segments of the population such as low income householders who spend as much as 70 per cent of their

It is, therefore, hoped that with the launch of the database that not only members of the public would utilise it, but also the business community. The Chief Economist stressed that his department wanted to provide public access for consumers to assist them in the monitoring of food prices. More importantly, he added: ???We want to encourage the business community to view the website and try to compare their prices to other prices and see how best they can have a uniformed price that in the end would benefit everyone.???

This new online service is coming just at the right time, as Barbadians are trying to get the best value for money, and Government, through the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and International Business, is working tirelessly to make this happen.

theresa.blackman@barbados.gov.bb

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