Posted: Thursday, March 2, 2023. 3:00 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: A Cabinet sub-committee has been formed to address the issues of inflation and price gouging which continue to affect the cost of living of all Belizeans.
It follows a discussion in this week’s Cabinet meeting on the issue, specifically increases in costs of supplies which in turn affect the cost of goods and services.
Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise Jose Abelardo Mai has been tasked to lead the sub-committee to (1) explore a short-term framework to alleviate the impacts on those most affected and (2) to explore any and all angles, including legal, to put an end to price gouging.
The Executive uncomfortably acknowledges that “Despite government subsidies to the productive and transportation sectors, an increase in the minimum wage, and an employment boom, the cost of living continues to affect all Belizeans.” This week, Prime Minister John Briceño said Cabinet would have to take a look at proposals to increase the retail cost of bagged brown and plantation white sugar, a commodity Belize produces in abundance, yet whose price has remained stagnant for years.
Meanwhile, Cabinet said it welcomed the offer from the Joint Unions to assemble a team that will actively assist with monitoring processes in stores to detect instances of price gouging: “This is another demonstration of the government’s commitment to working hand-in-hand with the unions for the good of our nation and all our people.”
According to the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), “[In January] the country saw an overall national inflation rate of 6.6 percent on goods and services that are typically bought by Belizean households. The primary driver of this increase was the ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ category, which once again accounted for over half of the national inflation rate, as food prices continued to rise rapidly. This was followed by ‘Transport’, which was responsible for almost one-third of the inflation recorded for the month of January, with fuel prices remaining higher than they were in the same month of 2022.” Prices were down only slightly – 0.3 percent – from measurements in December.
In December the SIB noted, “The annual inflation rate for the year 2022, when compared to the year 2021, stood at 6.3 percent. Both the ‘Transport’ and ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ categories were the main contributors, accounting for more than three-quarters of the inflation experienced by consumers during the year 2022, with increases of 18.2 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively.”
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