The rising cost of living and the need to ensure that consumers are treated to fair prices were the central topics discuss at a meeting today, between the Ministry of Commerce and the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).??

Minister of Commerce, Haynesley Benn; BCCI President, Andy Armstrong; and representatives from both institutions discussed areas where greater interaction among government, business and the consumer?? would create benefits for all.

Senator Benn explained that the meeting was the right step towards dealing with the cost of living in Barbados. "The objective of the meeting was to establish a good relationship between ourselves and the Chamber of Commerce, and to develop an understanding as to how we can address this burning issue of the cost of living," he commented.??

It was noted that the full implementation of the Miscellaneous Controls Act Cap. 329 (Price Control Regulations) would be one method to assist in this process.?? Since 2007, a number of consumer items have been placed under price control under the Miscellaneous Controls Act, which indicates specific wholesale and retail markups for each product.??

Enforcement of this Act would ensure that the public would benefit from measures to mitigate the effects of rising costs. It should also see businesses providing information on the cost and markup on products, not only to ensure compliance, but to illustrate the reasons for fluctuation in prices throughout the year.????

Mr. Armstrong highlighted the need to return to the publication of prices of items in the ???basket of goods’ – an effort which is in the works.

There are also plans to analyse the impact of reclassification of goods in tariff categories. This refers to the sometimes drastic change in tax imported products incured when placed in a different bracket by customs, thereby resulting in an increased cost to the consumer.

The Minister explained that a broad-based committee would be established, which is part of a strategy to be implemented by government.

The BCCI President agreed that sharing of information between his institution and the Ministry was crucial for government, business and consumers, as it would ensure that the Ministry would be aware of any imminent price rise; companies could illustrate that they were above board with their practices; and the public would be aware of the causes for price increases.

Senator Benn emphasized that cooperation from businesses was key to any success in this endeavor.

"I’m looking forward to really doing something that will positively impact on the cost of living, and this meeting is a continuation of these efforts," the Minister opined.??

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