Kittitian Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris has warned Basseterre’s supermarkets and food suppliers that any attempt at price gouging will be penalized. (EDITORIAL NOTE – Hey Freundel? The following is a fresh and relevant message on True Leadership, so pay Attention, ok?)
This was emphasized at the Prime Minister’s first monthly press conferencewhich was held at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Conference Room. (EDITORIAL NOTE – Hey Freundel? Obama has a weeklyYoutube address to USA, now St Kitts has a monthly Press Conference – so what’syour schedule again? This is how you rock it, bub!)
These comments were made in the context of concerns among residents that there would be price gouging in response to the complete removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) from food, medicine and funeral expenses. Prime Minister Harris emphasized that there are several methods of penalizing such law-breakers.
“There is legislation on the books that deal with unfair pricing and price gouging and we could in fact impose that,” the Prime Minister of SKN emphasized. “We have a price control mechanism and we could in fact expand the range of products if we deem that necessary… and of course we have the conscience response which is what we are appealing to now, for people to do the right thing because there is no loss to them in terms of their profit from our exempting these items from VAT. So they hold their margin as it was, that’s all we’re asking, hold your margin to what it was – and do not attempt now, because people supposed to get 17 percent savings through the system, to carry it up by 10 to rob them of that saving. Any effort to do that will be resisted with the full weight of this government. Whether it be to name and shame them or through legislative action, we will bring the full weight of the government to resist these efforts which we will consider acts of betrayal against the consumer and we will not let it stand.”
During his opening statement, Prime Minister Harris noted that he had put a committee in place to ensure that the savings from the removal of VAT from the mentioned items would be passed on to the consumer.
“I have directed that the Financial Secretary along with the Head of the Consumer Affairs Department, along with the Head of Customs and theHead of Inland Revenue should meet, come together and discuss how we are going to use the network of the government system to ensure that you [residents] are not denied and that you enjoy the fruits of your government of national unity,”Prime Minister Harris emphasized. “That committee has since met withrepresentatives of the food distribution industry, the leadership of RAMS for example, Best Buy and the Chinese supermarkets to get them to understand that this is serious business and we do not want them to mark up their goods unduly, so that the benefit to you would be lost.
“We have warned them that the government will do all in its power to ensure it does not happen. And so we give them a gentle reminder, we say fairness for all, and we want them to be fair with the consumers and we will use the network within government to ensure that that fairness is being realized. I give them a word of encouragement and I give them a word of warning that we will not allow price gouging to take place in the context of our efforts to bring relief to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.”
The Prime Minister’s opening statement had focused on the three major policy initiatives undertaken by his government since taking office less than 45 days ago. Specifically, the removal of VAT from food, medicine and funeral expenses, effective April 07; the acceptance of a $16 million dollar grant from the government of Venezuela through its PetroCaribe and ALBA initiatives towards the upgrade of the compensation package to former sugar workers; and next week’s gratuitous payment of $10 million to the Nevis Island Administration, in fulfillment of a promise made under the Charlestown Accord.