Business Community Questions Government’s Measures to Tackle Inflation
Is the government setting in place the right measures to tackle inflation? That’s the question being raised by the business community following GOB’s move to place a ceiling on the profits retailers and wholesalers can place on certain items. The decision seeks to tackle inflation, but the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it’s not that clear cut. The Chamber expressed discontent in not being consulted, but their remarks were not met kindly by Minster of Food Security and Enterprise, Jose Mai. The minister asked, “Who voted for the chamber” and stated that the government is doing its part to assist those feeling the pinch of inflation. Business Sector Senator, Kevin Herrera, weighed in on the matter today and says he found the chamber’s concerns to be reasonable.
Kevin Herrera, Senator, Business Community: “It’s a lot more complex than I think the minister is looking at it. And so I think one of the business organizations, I think the chamber had asked for, you know, some type of study that would have, you know, look at what the real causes of it were. I thought that was a sensible request. I think that when you look at prices in general you know the source prices are not the same for everyone and so that could be a factor again you wouldn’t know you know about that until you really get into it. Transportation, inefficiencies or efficiencies in areas such as the port could have an impact on prices, duties and taxes. One of the big ones and this is especially in the retail sector in Belize is do we know if we even have competition in the retail sector. I mean, one of the best safeguards, one of the best safeguards you have in terms of free economies is market forces. And do we even know if we have competition within the retail sector? Do we know that if we’re dealing with a potential conglomerate at the retail sector those are not things we know. And perhaps the minister should at least take the time to look at those types of things, you know, in terms of trying to give some relief to people with prices. I mean, those are important factors, I believe, that would affect prices. And so, we want to make sure that, you know, we at least do our homework before we start suggesting solutions. It’s not as simple as to me it’s not as simple as just saying, you know, do this because I feel that way. I mean there are real reasons why things happen the way they do. And certainly inflationary prices, you know, could have specific factors that are driving it and that is what you need to get to the bottom.”
Senator Herrera went on to describe the minister’s comments as unfortunate and harped on the role the chamber plays in representing the private sector.
Kevin Herrera, Senator, Business Community: “You know, I think it’s unfortunate that he asked, for example who voted for the chamber. I mean, I think it’s well understood that the business organizations, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Business Bureau represent the private sector and so you wouldn’t want to allow politicians to be able to get away with this type of thing and choose their private sector representatives. I mean it’s understood worldwide that business organizations represent the private sector and we want to keep it that way. If not we’ll continue to see decisions being railroaded, decisions that the minister wants will be effected because they’re able to choose the type of individuals they have around the table. That should never happen. And I’m hoping that this would not, I wouldn’t hear something like that again. I don’t think that does any type of good to the overall governance structure. There are checks and balances within the system. The business organizations represent a certain interest group and they should be around that table. There’s no way the minister should be able to pick which representatives in the business community he wants to represent at any given meeting. Remember whenever you’re pulling solutions for problems without really knowing what the root cause of the problem is you might be pulling the wrong solution and that’s the risk that you run in this type of knee jerk type of reaction and so I think that’s why it’s important to sit with the players, sit with the business organizations and really try to get at the root of it.”