A new fixed controlled price for the sale of Liquefied Petroleum Gas was introduced last night with an increase. There has been a notable increase in the past six months of at least twenty-five percent. According to the Belize Bureau of Standards, the monthly increase seen in September is due to fluctuations in acquisition prices for LPG. But according to Audrey Matura, the price has remained stagnant internationally, so why the price gouging?
Audrey Matura, Attorney: “From the time the monopoly started the international price has not gone beyond fifty one cents. Fifty one cents is the highest it has been, none of them has been beyond fifty one but yet every month they increase price. So this increase now by way of comparison on the 31st of August you could see 31st of August on the chart here that the price was still fifty one cents. Go to October 5th the price was still fifty one cents but yesterday they increased it by nine cents. When we look at where we were in August 31st the price had been that they had issued was the price that they announced on the 5th of September which was $2.67 cents per gallon; that’s wholesale I’m dealing only with wholesale because we are dealing with clients that deal with wholesale. Since then they have increased it to now $2.76 cents that’s a nine cent difference. Key to it is that one of the things that the government had said and the Prime Minister specifically had said in the National Assembly that there was this oligopoly and he wanted to dismantle it and that would be good news to the consumers because there would be better prices but there’s not better prices because now while I’m dealing only with wholesale the retail price now has gone up massively. The retail price to the consumers goes up by ten cents each time. If you’re in rural areas it’s ten cents more than what it would have been in the urban areas. So as of yesterday the price has gone up to $4.46 for the domestic use. You have to take that $4.46 and you take away the $2.76 and then you will see that the increase is almost by $1.50. So each time the consumer, that is the margin of profit they’re having apart from having calculated a price when the national company calculates a price they put in their loan, they put in their expenses, they put in everything so what they get above all that expense is actually only profits. In the definitive agreement they had a methodology where the government would allow them to include their investment so the cost that they put to the consumer immediately for their investment comes out from the consumer it’s not as though they’re gonna just put the world market price, put what are the basic expenses and then give us a price and from their profit pay the investment; no the investment is put as part of the cost. Prices to the consumers have not been reduced, it just keeps increasing and not only that it keeps increasing against a background where world wide it is not increasing. You could say oh we’re increasing because the oil prices internationally went up, it has not gone up it has remained constant. As a matter of fact there were points since the monopoly was created there were points when it was actually lower. So the chart I have here there were times when it was only forty eight cents – two cents makes a difference. It never has gone up beyond the fifty one cents.“
Maura also gave us an update on the case before the court.
Audrey Matura, Attorney: “Claim eighty eight of 2020 is the Judicial Review case, we’re still at the permission stage. Judicial review cases usually happen within weeks. It has never gone so long but COVID has created a lot of delay, we’ve given written submissions and we’ve asked for an oral presentation to argue why our clients should get judicial review. The judicial review cases has to do with prices. It has to do with the arbitrary way the government decided to change the method of prices and how they have implemented their own way of doing prices without consultations. So remember before it used to be by a hundred pound cylinder that they used to determine what the price was, then they decided okay we’re gonna do it by maximum wholesale and maximum retail, then they put on a quantity that was maximum wholesale and retail then they arbitrarily changed that again. As of May of this year when national started there’s gonna be mention that there’s a retail and wholesale but no quantum so that case has to do with that. So we are hoping that by the 6th of November we’ll have oral arguments and we’ll know if we get permission to take the case to the next level. Judicial review is an unusual type of case you have to get permission to continue your claim. The other case now which is the constitutional case which is claim number 159 of 2019 that’s different they can’t tell us whether we can go to court or not we’re at court, we’re claiming that you’ve breached our constitutional rights. The timeline for that is that we’re barely at the stage where yesterday was the deadline for us to submit our evidence that means our affidavit evidence with all the documents we intend to rely on. It should have been a week earlier but we had gotten an extension of time and that’s where we are with that. By the 23rd of this month we have to have agreed facts and statement of fact between the two parties the defendants and us the claimants and thereafter we go back to court I don’t remember the exact day in November but for a pretrial review and at that point then we will know what will be the hearing dates. So that’s where are, behind the scenes the work is going on at the court level no because you do a lot of work before you actually reach the court so that’s where are with those two cases.”
According to Matura, the Government has implemented a monopoly company to abuse its suppliers and consumers.