The Price Control Bureau (PCB) has showed signs of life. They have had a few stories in the papers and are advising citizens to lodge complaints if any businesses are profiteering during this crisis. This is good, just as the Ombudsman has encouraged us private citizens to keep our leaders accountable, so has PCB on the prices of food.
Now the ball is in our court, are we ready to break the culture of silence and fear? Are we ready to be vocal outside social media and make real impact in society? Are we ready to take the nakamal stresses to the proper authorities and affect real change? As Bob Marley said, “Only time will tell”.
While we wait on that, I’m glad that PCB has called out to the public to raise issues on price gouging (if any) and just to get everyone on the same page, it will not be a one-sided conversation.
A few complaints about the high price of rice for example won’t make the authorities force the supermarkets to make it cheaper, there will be dialogue exchanged, meetings held, and if the supermarket or retailer is able to justify costs then the price will stay.
So pretty fair and just, since we don’t have price ceilings on a lot of goods, the PCB needs to take into account what a lot of natural and man-made crisis has brought forward.
We have the pandemic and Ukraine/Russia situation. Both are out of our control and more importantly, our importers have had some big decisions to make in terms of what they bring in to the country and what the new prices will be and now PCB is on their tails as well.
It almost seems unfair for retailers that more stress is added to their business but consumers need protection as well.
One way retailers could get some slack if the government stepped in and removed VAT from some of the goods. The Fiji government recently announced that it will remove VAT for 22 goods, from toilet paper to bottles of gas, this has helped retailers and consumers alike.
The reason why I bring this up is because I read a part of PCB’s statement towards retailers cautioning on unethically increasing prices and to my surprise, they even cautioned farmers and market vendors as well, why is that?
PCB should be looking at the big supermarkets, utility providers, gas and fuel providers and ensure that they are not overcharging consumers for these basic needs. If they are and it’s justified, prepare a report for government stating that it’s a catch-22 and the government needs to step in like Fiji and probably assist by removing VAT for some products.
You can’t bring the hammer down on the farmers and vendors. People who wake up at odd hours to harvest crops and the struggle to make a sale. All of sudden the country wants to eat healthy and now PCB is trying to regulate market prices?
Where were you when we were ranting about high electricity prices? Did you team up with URA to answer us?
Now PCB is asking for reasonable prices for produce, and I know that call isn’t just with PCB but a lot of us as well, one thing you need to consider is that we are still in the cyclone season, so chances of crops being destroyed are still 50/50. Secondly once that is done, El Nino comes with the dry season, forcing farmers to be a bit innovative with their practices.
The price of fuel has increased, so transporting their produce to a good locale for sale is costly. Then we have bugs, weeds, thieves and the cost of everyday things because, yes like you and me, they have responsibilities like rent, fees, utilities and whatnot.
So, before you judge the price of taro, think about what these hard workers go through to have it available for us.
And to PCB here’s a free tip for you – if you really want to investigate the price of produce, start at the supermarkets, I can’t wait to see how that turns out.
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