By EARYEL BOWLEG
National FREE Movement leader Michael Pintard accused the government of being “arrogant” and “stubborn” in its approach to implementing increased price controls.
He spoke to reporters on the same day private pharmacies “temporarily” closed due to failure to resolve the dispute over expanding price controls by the November 1 deadline.
“We are in this position where entrepreneurs who feel their businesses are at risk of closing, Bahamians of losing their jobs, have taken a dramatic step to draw attention to this government’s failure to do at least two things before put in place the price control measures,” he said.
He said one decision the government should have made was to conduct an analysis to determine whether or not a proposed solution will have unintended negative consequences.
“In this case, they did not perform the proper analysis. Second, the government did not consult. So, in the absence of a study, it is absolutely necessary for decision makers to have a conversation with the sectors that are going to be affected. They made technical errors. So where they thought they were affecting maybe 38 elements, it turns out they could very well be affecting hundreds or even thousands of elements.
“What is true according to wholesalers, according to retailers, whether they are grocers or pharmacists, is that at least 60 to 70% of some of their businesses and their products are now affected by the government’s decision. And again they asked “Can we sit down and have a conversation about how we can do this” so that consumers are protected in terms of affordable items, whether it’s food or medicines, baby products, etc.
“The government has again been stubborn, arrogant in its approach that even when people have pointed out obvious technical errors in the classification of goods, as well as when they have pointed out that the margins the government is interested in imposing on Bahamian contractors who are helping thousands of Bahamians, the government has still not backed down and had a reasonable conversation with these contractors.
He said it was “unfair” for the government to then ask a particular class of Bahamian entrepreneurs to solve a problem for which officials were largely elected.
They therefore ask the private sector to solve a problem which is that of the inflationary pressures which weigh on the backs of the Bahamians. They want a particular group to do it. To the credit of a number of these groups who have been negatively affected, they have said we are ready to do our part,” the Marco City MP said.
“The government, however, has refused to do its part. The Free National Movement has made several recommendations and we are happy to hear from members of the media and others echoing a number of these measures.
He suggests removing VAT on medicines, baby products and bread basket items.
“But at a minimum the government can remove VAT on all these items that are even being considered and they haven’t. The second thing we think the government has the ability to do to relieve Bahamians is that it could reduce the extravagant trips they take on a regular basis. They can cut the budget around the many consultants they have put in place,” Pintard said.