Implement controls and pass laws to inspect the books
Many of us including myself complain about the lack of communication from the Government but when there are town hall meetings, the meetings are poorly attended. I know there is technology and people can view the town hall meetings on social media, but these town hall meetings are a great opportunity to interact with and look straight in the eyes of politicians with your questions.
During the town hall meeting on the island of Providenciales, a member of the audience asked about the cost of prices still being too high even with the duty exemption. The premier said they cannot control whether the merchants are passing those savings directly to consumers and as a result, the Government provided three stimuli and a fixed rate of 20 cents for the fuel factor for the electricity bill.
Now I appreciate that the Government is trying to address the price increases by the reduction of duties on basic food items and the reduction in the customs processing fee. However, many people are very much concerned about the continuous increase in prices.
Of course, we know that the genesis of this increase is the Ukraine/Russian war. There is a shortage of supplies and there is a significant increase in demand and so this drives the price of goods up.
Meet with the Stakeholders
I was taken aback when the Premier said that they cannot control whether the merchants passed the savings onto the consumers. I believe the Government can do more by simply having a one-to-one conversation with the relevant merchants and a guarantee from them that they are indeed passing the savings onto the consumers. I am not sure that this conversation has taken place because there was no mention that the Consumer Protection Department or any other Department have met with the merchants.
Perhaps the merchants are passing the savings onto consumers but the reason we are not feeling it is because the price of goods have increased. However, how will we know this if there is no formal conversation or monitoring with the merchants.
I know we must trust the process and trust our merchants but what if there are some dishonest merchants out there who know they no one is checking and so they will not pass the savings onto the consumers. If there are such merchants like that, I can guarantee you, if someone was monitoring them, they would not risk it and will therefore pass on the savings to the consumers.
Audit the stakeholders
I know our current legislation may not allow auditing of the records of the stakeholders. However, this can easily be fixed by appropriate legislations. The same way the Government can audit the books of the hospitality industry to ensure that they are paying the correct accommodation taxes, they can implement some sort of legislation to allow them to check the records of the merchants to ensure that the savings are passed onto the consumers.
Implement price control
I know Government does not want to implement price control as the Premier stated at the town hall meeting, that a price control is complicated and can result in shortage. However, how will we know if we don’t try. Other countries such as the Bahamas and Bermuda have price control on certain products and there is no shortage. We can do the same in Turks and Caicos even if is temporary.
I don’t believe that some of the prices should be the way they are. I think the prices are exaggerated particularly with the real estate market. I know that individuals and businesses must cover their expenses particularly the recent increase in the interest rates but more of us can do better and if it takes a price control, then the Government should implement a price control.
I know there is a global crisis in terms of the supply chain and hence prices continue to escalate. However, let us try something different by talking to the merchants and implementing a temporary price control.