Back in November, the Government of Belize established fixed prices for the sale of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in order to prevent controversy with the major importers who are reportedly setting the prices lower than what is sustainable for the country. The fix was temporary but was necessary in order to keep local operators of LPG in business. Minister responsible for the Belize Bureau of Standards (BBS), Tracy Taeger-Panton explained the issue that led to the temporary fix, and that the major companies have been warned against lowering their prices.
Tracey Taegar Panton, Minister of Investment, Trade, and Commerce: “While there is a ceiling for price control in terms of what you can sell your LPG there was no floor and so we noted that the LPG suppliers, the importers of LPG started to sell below the market price and it’s a price war if you will and so we had to institute a floor. We have found out though that some of these suppliers are still not respecting the floor and so we should have a house meeting this week to make some amendments to the Supplies Control Act to ensure that we can put in provisions in that act to penalize suppliers who do not respect government controlled prices. When the prices are ignored the persons who suffer are local retailers because they can’t buy for the price that the suppliers are selling at and they can’t sell for the price that they’re buying from the supplier and so it’s creating a lot of tension in terms of the market. LPG is a very important commodity, as you know for our households but also for small businesses and in the tourism sector in particular and so government will take every measure it can to ensure that there is compliance with government regulated prices.”
Reporter: As it stands now there aren’t any penalties that the government can levy against these companies?
Tracey Taegar Panton, Minister of Investment, Trade, and Commerce: “Yes there’s a penalty but the penalty is negligible and so the penalties will be increased substantially as a deterrent to not respecting the price control measures that the government has put in place.”
Reporter: Have these companies been warned?
Tracey Taegar Panton, Minister of Investment, Trade, and Commerce: “Yes they have been warned, they have been advised.”
One would think that lower prices means happier consumers, but Minister Panton stated that there are repercussions.
Tracey Taegar Panton, Minister of Investment, Trade, and Commerce: “They are cutting the prices so that they can then control the market completely and that the retailers would then no longer be a factor and we can’t allow that to happen. I think it is a reaction to the instituting of a national gas company. That company should be up and running, as I understand it from the investors, within another six months or so so we have a six month war that is being waged and the government will do all it can to ensure that we have some kind of sustainable approach to how we distribute LPG in the country.”
Panton stated that there will need to be additional measures to enforce these fixed prices.