PRIME Minister Philip “Brave” Davis. (File photo)
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRESS Secretary Clint Watson confirmed a meeting with retailers and Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis will take place next week.
The announcement comes after reports that food stores throughout the country were said to be “up in arms” over the details of the government’s expanded price control regime amid fears it will “devastate” the industry and jobs for hundreds of workers.
Mr Watson also responded to calls from prominent grocer Rupert Roberts that price controls be done away with, saying: “We are protecting our Bahamian people that’s why we have the consumer protection agency.”
He further acknowledged that there were some concerns on social media that retailers planned to take action over the government’s decision.
“They're threatening to hold some items from the shelves that might be costly. We've heard some people say they may close on weekends on Sundays. There is a meeting with the Prime Minister and the retailers next week. I think it's Tuesday that they have planned to have that meeting,” Mr Watson told reporters during a press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister.
He said the prime minister will talk to the retailers and one of the things he will convey to them is his administration wants to provide an environment where retailers can thrive, but also where consumers and Bahamians can not only thrive but survive.
“Food services, access to food is important for our people and so there must be a way to be able to manage how we're able to ensure that people can afford to go to the grocery store and purchase goods so that you can have food for them and their families - that’s important.
“But what (the) prime minister has done through his administration is put relief in place for retailers and wholesalers. There has been a reduction on customs imports and duties on food specifically so that these retailers and wholesalers can feel some relief themselves and the consumers hopefully will be passed on that relief. That's just one initiative to allow there to be some balancing of what we've seen happen with inflation.”
Mr Watson went further to express officials’ position on the price control commission, adding they are protecting Bahamians when he was asked about calls to do away with price control.
“We are protecting our Bahamian people. That’s why we have the consumer protection agency. That’s why we have price control,” he said. “They’re there to protect you because a grocer and a wholesaler are in business to do what? Make money.
“And so people are naturally looking at their bottom line and see even in inflation how can we still stay afloat and still make a profit. We’re not knocking them for that. That’s their job. The job of the government is to protect its people and those measures are put in place to be able to impact people in a positive direction. So, there are also going to be times and seasons where people are going to push a little more. Remember the gas wholesalers did the same thing when gas prices were rising.
“They were pushing and agitating for (the) government to give them a little more room and (the) government said listen, where you work with us we will give you some relief in other areas, but we're not going to put this on the backs of Bahamians. What happened eventually, it balanced out and that's what you call good governance.
“Rather than just saying the lazy, lazy way out is increased taxes, we're not going to do that. We're going to find a way that you always benefit people,” Mr Watson said.