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AS I SEE THINGS: Prohibitive food prices a main talking point


Brian Francis

AS I SEE THINGS: Prohibitive food prices a main talking point

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Now that talk about the upcoming general election is in the air, the Barbadian public can very well brace itself for all sorts of rhetoric and innuendo, ranging from the performance and current state of the economy to allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds.
While these are critical issues that must be addressed in meaningful ways, they are mostly presented in such general terms that ordinary citizens do not readily connect to what politicians are saying.
But while all of this is taking place, everyone will agree that there are serious issues that continue to plague we the people and we can only hope that those concerns will be addressed specifically by the main political parties contesting the general election.
Undoubtedly, one of the major problems facing Barbados is the prohibitive food prices that consumers continue to face. To me, that issue has to be a major talking point during the campaign because it cuts across all households and hurts everyone irrespective of income level.
More specifically, we have heard of all sorts of plans and programmes intended to bring food prices down, but to date there has been little relief.
For example, we have heard of plans to establish a low-cost food chain but to date the only progress on record is the start of construction on a building.
We have also heard of Government itself importing food items and setting up a distribution company but thus far nothing tangible has happened in that regard.  
Moreover, the basket of goods has been expanded and it is expected to expand again to include a wider array of food items that will be free of taxes in an effort to keep their prices down.
Part of the problem in this regard is that even when some items are zero-rated, the Barbadian public does not readily see any reduction in prices.
This situation was clearly outlined in last weekend’s NATION when patrons attending the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Athletic Championships complained bitterly about the cost of food being sold at the event. Prices were so prohibitive that many decided to walk with their packed lunches.
What is alarming in the current environment is that we have heard various solutions put forward by Ministers of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, and Finance, yet no real progress has been made in lowering the prices of food in this country.
It seems clear, therefore, that despite Government’s best efforts at containing the escalation in food prices, the reality is that there isn’t much success that one can point out.  
To be fair, we cannot blame the Government entirely for this problem. What seems clear is that we are confronted with a difficult challenge that demands a multi-front approach to finding a solution.
Hence, during the upcoming election campaign, the public needs to be told not only about the problems facing the economy but must also be presented with real solutions to real problems.  
The issue of prohibitive food prices is clearly a main case in point. If Government is for the people, then clearly, political parties must present the people with solutions to the critical problems they live with day to day.
So, will we the people finally hear of workable solutions to high food prices during the campaign? Time will tell!

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