Posted: Monday, December 23, 2019. 7:30 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: As the price war over liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) continues, Prime Minister Dean Barrow issued his latest broadside against the three-headed ‘monopoly’ of gas distributors and defense of actions taken in the National Assembly.
Stiffer penalties and the threat of confiscation of butane stock were passed into law to safeguard from the actions of international butane importers which have cornered the market ahead of the start-up of the National Gas Company Limited next year.
Barrow distinguished between the “unfair pricing” used by companies to deny Belizeans the cheapest price for LPG, and the current “predatory pricing” targeting both retailers and the Government’s instituted control prices in November.
“This is a whole new strategy: the effort to engage in predatory pricing, to take the prices down below even the acquisition costs, because they have deep pockets, in an effort to force out the local Belizean distributors. The government is not going to allow that to happen, and we are confident that we did the right thing when we took the measures that we took,” Barrow said.
Asked why Government moved against butane distributors when the same thing has happened in other sectors, Barrow reiterated that Government has a duty to protect both local retailers and consumers, and that there was a risk that if the importers/distributors had succeeded in getting rid of the retailers, consumers would have faced much higher prices. Both Belize Natural Energy and Kuylen’s Butane also got into the import business.
Under the NGC regime, these importers and others will be allowed to bid for importations and “if they are trying to hold us to ransom, then we can source [butane] otherwise now because of the National Gas Company,” the Prime Minister concluded.
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