The Bahamas Price Control Commission is monitoring the “escalating” rise in the cost of everyday goods particularly over the past few months, according to its Chairman Danny Sumner.
“We’re overpricing ourselves and this is bad. We are trying to find a way to remedy the situation,” he said.
Globally, prices for food, fuel, minerals and even metals have been on the rise. Last week the consumer price index for the US – The Bahamas’ largest trading partner – jumped more than five percent to its highest point in more than a decade.
Sumner said it has continued trends from last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when prices roses just marginally, however he said in the past six months prices in The Bahamas have escalated and so have complaints to his department.
“The main problem for price escalation right now is fuel. You would note that gas a year ago was $3 a gallon now it’s over $5. You have to take in consideration the merchants, the wholesalers and the retailers. Literally we import everything in this country, so basically when fuel goes up look for that increase to be reflected in duty on importation and freight. The Bahamas imports everything, food and clothing and those are the areas where people are complaining,” he told Guardian Business.
“These complaints have been going on for the last six months or so.”
The most recent data on prices for The Bahamas was contained in the Monthly Economic and Financial Developments report for May, in which The Central Bank of The Bahamas predicted prices would remain subdued in 2021 with an inflation rate of two percent. However, Sumner said consumers are feeling the pinch in their pockets.
“We did our investigation and we discovered that the prices that have been increasing in the various food stores and the various convenience stores are due to fuel costs and the availability and the demand for these items. That is why sometimes you go in the food store, you find items readily available at one price and you go back the next week and the same items are priced higher.
“Other than that we have seen an increase in cereals and produce that we eat every day like grapes, apples and oranges. These prices have been going up. Unfortunately these things are not protected by the bread basket that we have. So the price control officers we have that go out on a daily basis primarily look for increases in bread basket items like corned beef, soup, eggs and so forth. Those prices are not on the increase, I can assure you that, those prices are steady. And the reason for that is because they can only go up a marginal percent.”
Sumner said he is happy the government adopted his initiative to implement a value-added tax (VAT) holiday on hurricane items, adding that the only way around increasing prices in The Bahamas is eliminating customs duty.
“We don’t know the price of these things when they bring them in, however it doesn’t give them the right to make prices higher for consumers. We try to check with them to look at their invoices and customs paperwork, where they pay the duty and VAT. Bear in mind VAT is still a thing that we have a problem with,” he said.
“Unfortunately, in The Bahamas, people are paying VAT and customs duty. Across the board, most things we see in the food stores and the dry good stores and even the clothing stores, most things you’re looking at 40 and 45 percent off the top and another 12 percent from VAT and you’re looking at 52 percent on items before they even get to the shelves. And once they hit the shelves these retailers are looking to make their profit. So inasmuch as price control is trying to protect consumers, we are doing so to make sure consumers are not being taken advantage of.”