Out of date, ineffective and failed.
That’s the verdict of AML vice president Renea Bastian on price control – the policy that intends to keep the price down on essential items so that people aren’t priced out of the ability to feed themselves.
The goal may be laudable – but is it effective?
Mrs Bastian says that for starters, it is misguided – the items on the price control list are not even the healthier options.
They call them breadbasket items – a list of butter, cooking oil, mayonnaise, grits, cheese, corned beef, evaporated milk, margarine, rice, sugar, flour, bread and tomato paste. But the problem for businesses is that while they are held back on profit on these items, that means they have to raise the price elsewhere on others. For a broader, healthier diet, those costs still come back on the consumer – and that list is lacking in fruit and vegetables for a start.
Of course, readers will be well aware of the wildly fluctuating prices on fruit – sometimes high enough to draw a gasp of shock as you check the sticker.
Mrs Bastian was speaking at an event organised by Hands For Hunger, a group well known for its efforts at tackling problems with food supply across the country – so this is not a retailer calling out for the chance to make more money, rather someone simply asking if the way we are going about things really is the best way.
Can we change around the items in that breadbasket, for example? Or can we be smarter about taxation?
This week’s Budget included a reduction in tax, for example, on furniture. That’s all well and good – but furniture purchases tend to be fewer for families and therefore a reduction there has less of an impact on most people’s daily life. Would there perhaps be a way of using that money to reduce food costs to give a more meaningful effect for more?
That’s not an easy balance, of course – that furniture money won’t go that far when spread across a wider market, but that is just one example. The question remains: can we be smarter about making food more affordable?
Our nation is very dependent upon imported food too – is there more we can do to encourage the internal food market to help eliminate unnecessary shipping costs?
These are not questions raised to criticise the current way of doing things – but rather to ask if we can do more.
For those living in poverty, that little extra can be the difference between a full plate and an empty stomach.
March to honour those we miss
Friday’s Labour Day parade will be a poignant occasion.
Marchers will have four colleagues very much in mind – the four who will not be alongside them this year.
We hope everyone present will take a moment to honour Tabitha Haye, Tami Patrice Gibson, Kathleen Fernander and Dianna Gray-Ferguson, who died last year when a vehicle ran out of control and ran into the parade.
We hope that will be marked with prayers, with words – and with good behaviour by all in attendance.
If the parade can be an occasion to bring people together safely, to celebrate the day without excess, that will truly be a way of honouring those we wish were still there too.