At the same time price control inspectors were showing up at some grocery stores to confirm whether they are adhering to price control changes announced weeks ago, Prime Minister Philip Davis was urging grocers to follow the law regarding the new margins, which are intended to help ease inflationary pressures.
Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis, meanwhile, said he instructed the inspectors to visit the stores after The Nassau Guardian reported yesterday that members of the Retail Grocers Association, who have repeatedly objected to the changes, failed to adjust their prices to reflect the new margins.
When asked by The Guardian about their failure to comply, the prime minister replied, “I’m not aware, but our Consumer Affairs Department will probably be looking into it.”
He added, “We are a country of laws and the rule of law is still alive today as it was yesterday and I would expect those who understand the law to follow the law, including the grocers.”
The grocers have said adhering to the new margins would be detrimental to their businesses. They have been waiting for weeks for the government to respond to a counter-proposal, which it invited the grocers to present, outlining what they could live with.
But as far as the government is concerned, the matter is a done deal and the merchants must comply with what was gazetted.
“We are looking to enforce the law where the law is not being respected,” Halkitis told reporters yesterday.
“Since we brought in the amendments, we have hired additional inspectors here in New Providence and we’re in the process of engaging additional inspectors as well on the Family Islands and giving them resources to do the job that they require.”
In October, the government gazetted a 15 percent maximum markup for wholesalers and a 25 percent maximum markup for retailers on certain categories of items.
In November, Halkitis said the government agreed to tweak those changes. It agreed to an additional five percent maximum markup on perishable items for retailers on New Providence and Grand Bahama.
The government also agreed to an additional five percent markup on non-perishable items, and an additional 10 percent on perishables for the Family Islands than what was originally gazetted.
The government had originally proposed the same markup for New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands, but conceded that Family Island businesses face higher operating costs.
The retail markup for non-perishables on New Providence and Grand Bahama remains unchanged from what was announced in October.
The government has made no adjustments to the 15 percent maximum markup announced in October for wholesalers for all price-controlled categories.
The retailers had hoped for a response from the government weeks ago to their counter-proposal.
But Halkitis said yesterday there are “no negotiations that will hold up the amendments”.
“The amendments to the regulations are in place,” he said before going into a Cabinet meeting.
“We put them in place October 17. We had some discussions with the retail grocers and the retail pharmacists. We had discussions with the retail grocers where they expressed some concerns. We went back and we made some adjustments.
“We increased some margins to account for perishables and to account for Family Islands transportation. We thought that was a reasonable concession to the concerns that they raised.”
Halkitis reiterated the government expects the new list “to be respected”.