Belize Chamber of Commerce Expresses Concern over Government’s Unilateral Price Control List Addition
Aside from not having regular meetings with Prime Minister Briceno, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry is also disturbed that the government did not consult them prior to adding a list of food and non-food items to the price controlled list. Recently, the government announced that they would be placing a ceiling on the markups that retailers and wholesalers can place on certain items. Marcello Blake of the chamber explained that while they support any move that would alleviate the pressures on consumers, there are many other factors to consider and that is the level of contribution they had hoped to contribute had they been consulted.
Marcelo Blake, President, BCCI: “The chamber is in fact the largest private sector organization and we are made up of members that represent all sectors of the economy and so I think it’s only fitting that the chamber be consulted also bearing in mind that the price control regulation will directly impact our members who are in that retail space and so who better than the chamber representation to be consulted on that matter to ensure that our voices are heard and that we’re part of the conversation. The government is saying that they’re trying to address the issue of inflation and trying to ensure that those who are impacted, that in fact there is some relief. So they’re looking at primarily those who are what would be considered in the poor class to be able to try and at least meet their basic needs. We’re saying that price control is not necessarily that solution because if you look at the various studies that have been done there is quite a long list of literature to show that in fact price control doesn’t work. Competition is what drives prices. And so in those studies, you can look to the bigger players like the US who have actually done their most recent food price outlook which is suggesting that those prices will go up including others like the World Bank where the view of price control to combat inflation has looked at its pros and cons and has also determined that does not work. So for us we’re saying we are all as a chamber in support of trying to find a solution to provide the relief that’s necessary for the wider Belizean population. What we’re also saying is that In doing so, there are other ways and other mechanisms that can be employed. Primarily we’re looking at for example the government has the grocery bag program that has been running for quite some time. How can we, with private sector and government, partner on that initiative one, to ensure that the impact is happening where it needs to be with those who are less fortunate that require the assistance and at the same time being able to have a wider impact if we come together and work together to be able to provide what is necessary.”
President Blake went on to delve into the list expansion and the products included. He noted that the list is general, and not as specific as they believe it should have been.
Marcelo Blake, President, BCCI: “I can tell you we’ve had our challenges with meeting with the Prime Minister. Our last meeting with him was last November, and we’ve been requesting because we had agreed that we would have quarterly meetings and we’ve religiously sent our requests to get that quarterly meeting and we’ve not been able to and we’re now in, what, July of 2023. Our last almost close meeting, when I say close because there was a date decided and a confirmation sent and then a few days before that meeting, that June meeting was canceled. So the dialogue is not where it needs to be when it comes to our conversation with government. When situations like these come up, we’ve been trying to make sure we remain at the table in the conversation but as we’ve seen with the current price control we’re never consulted because these would be some of the things that we point out. It’s not that we’re against. Don’t get me wrong. We are not against trying to find a solution to help alleviate the inflation. It’s a matter of how we go about it because we are very keen on making sure that yes, there’s a partnership between private sector and government but it has to be that both parties are willing to come with an open mind and be able to come to the solutions that are necessary to be able to move this country forward.”
Later in this newscast, we’ll tell you what the BCCI’s position is on price gouging and the new mechanism that the government is looking to implement.