Earlier this week, the Minister responsible for Trade, Investment and Commerce, Tracy Taeger-Panton, explained the rationale for the recent fixed prices for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). According to her, a floor needed to have been set to disallow the importers from selling LPG at a lower price than that cost of acquisition. While lower prices would be ideal for consumers, Panton says it would have adverse effects on the industry. Minister Panton brought up the issue in today’s sitting of the House of Representatives, stating that the drop-in prices may be in retaliation to the proposal of a National Gas Company.
Tracey Panton, Minister of Trade, Investment and Commerce: “As a government having listened very keenly to the retailers, that we have decided that we will ensure by what whatever measure we can that they will respect the pricing scheme that is enshrined by law in this country, that they will respect the laws of this country and when they fail to do so Madam Speaker they will be penalized based on the new amendments that are outlined in this regulation. Thank you madam speaker.”
Honorable Cordel Hyde, Standard Bearer, People’s United Party: “I was hoping that the member for Albert would tell us what is the acquisition cost and how much below that acquisition cost these fellows are selling the butane for because maybe I’m missing something but I would think that we would want to pass legislation to protect the majority of people not a handful of people. We should bring legislation here not to try to defend or protect twenty five retailers but we should support any kind of pricing, any kind of mechanism that will bring down the prices for ordinary people. 70% of all households in this country they say use butane so how are we going to be reactionary when the price is coming down, this is a most unusual act because I’ve never seen in the history of governments a government move to set a flooring on the price when the price is falling and consumers are benefiting. What this reveals is that this government, successive governments have fallen asleep at the wheels because if these importers/distributors/ retailers can bring down the price of butane to this low it means they could have been doing it for many many years.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow defended the local retailers, explaining what they may have faced, had the importers been allowed to drop their prices.
Rt.Hon.Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “They decided they would engage in predatory – they would take a loss. Why? Capitalists are rational and that doesn’t seem rational. The whole idea is to drive all the local retailers out of business. When we met with those twenty five retailers some of them were next to tears, this thing the predatory pricing had been in effect for maybe a week or so already and there were people there saying “we have our loyal customers but they can’t fool with us because we have not even been able to sell one tank of gas because of what the cartel, the Mexican mafia -” maybe I shouldn’t say that because of what this family monopoly is doing. So we are to indeed for that brief moment, that little spell, if we had allowed them to continue that they would have been doing that the Belizean consumer would pay far lower prices for LPG than even the market price because of what the people are doing then when every one of the twenty five plus Belizean retailers would have been driven out of business- when they came to us some of them were on the point of shutting down, what do you think these people who control everything would have done? They would have then taken it up three or four or five times above the market thing and when, as the ministry it is the ministry’s duty to do, when the ministry would have said to them “no no no you can’t sell.” “then we will cut you off, then we will not import.” they have done it before. “