Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 2nd 2013 Contents A5
June 2, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
Satt has advised supermarket
owners that memos from suppliers
outlining new price increases be
displayed on shelves to guard
against abuse and complaints by
Bharath: Increase in
food prices worrying
On Wednesday, Bharath said
once VAT was removed from food
items, the Prices Council was sup-
posed to monitor prices and inform
consumers of price differentials.
"What it appears, in the interim,
it seems that wholesalers and
importers have increased the prices
that they were charging previously.
I don t know whether, in fact, their
prices have gone up or whether
they are utilising a sort of vacuum
to put up their prices."
Bharath said this information
could have been provided by the
council who "need to do more
work. I think they need to be given
more teeth to do their work."
He admitted that the council
had no legal teeth to take super-
markets to court, but could only
use persuasion to inform con-
sumers that supermarket A sells
far more than supermarket B.
Insisting that T&T operates in
a free market state, Bharath said
there was little that could be done.
"We operate in a small environ-
ment controlled by a few players,
therein lies the problem. I think
there needs to be some legislative
measure in place to ensure that if
supermarkets are caught making
higher margins than they ought to,
then there should be some mech-
anism to ensure that consumers
go to other places."
Asked if the council should have
been provided with more teeth
before the initiative was imple-
mented, Bharath said "yes."
For weeks, Bharath said his min-
istry worked tirelessly with Satt to
remove the VAT.
"Having gone through all of that,
I think it is a lot of hard work down
the drain, if in fact the claims that
prices have gone straight back up
to what it was before. It is wor-
Initiative not in vain
Questioned if Government s ini-
tiative had now gone in vain,
Bharath said they were well-inten-
tioned in reducing food prices in
"I don t think it was in vain. I
think the Government did every-
thing it could do and had to do to
reduce prices. One has to ask if
these are genuine increases, then
it would have meant that prices
would have been 15 per cent higher
had we not removed the VAT. That
really is the issue."
Asked if the initiative was a
political ploy, Bharath begged to
If it is proven that importers are
jacking up prices at their whim and
fancy, how will they be dealt with?
On Tuesday, Bharath said the
Customs Amendment Bill will be
debated in the Senate.
Once it is passed in both Houses,
Bharath said Customs and Excise
would be obligated to share infor-
mation on how much importers
pay for food items abroad.
"That will assist us in determin-
ing the absolute truth behind this
(prices.) If it is that the imported
prices are not what they have been
declared to be by the importers,
then I think the sharing of infor-
mation will force the prices down."
Lee Yuen: No clout to make
Wendy Lee Yuen, whose term
ended as the council s chairman
last December, said despite taking
blows from consumers, it was frus-
trating to work with professionals
who came up with recommenda-
tions that did not help rising food
"You see no action taken. We
had no clout to make any recom-
mendation work. When you are
looking to sweeten the electorate
sometimes you take action that
you hope will find favour with the
electorate, without necessarily put-
ting checks and balances in place."
Since her departure, Lee Yuen
said a new council was yet to be
appointed, which gives the impres-
sion that no one was looking out
She said she could imagine that
consumers were feeling hood-
winked and duped to a point.
Lee Yuen said she wrote Con-
sumer Affairs Division advising that
it needed to operationalise the Fair
Trading Commission, which was
passed and assented in Parliament
several years ago.
Appointing a commission, she
said, will ensure that importers do
not work in collusion, stop monop-
olies, advise the Trade Ministry of
the rate of taxes on food items and
streamline imported product.
If asked to serve again, Lee Yuen
said she would accept but only
under certain conditions.
"If it is going to be the same old
same old, there will be no positive
outcome for consumers."
T&T affected by what happens
Elizabeth Harford-Rooks, pres-
ident of the Food Distributors Asso-
ciation, admitted that prices of
some commodities had increased---
mainly bacon, imported chicken
and some canned vegetables.
"There are issues right now with
beef coming out of the US because
of short supply. We are affected by
what happens globally."
Harford-Rooks said the associ-
ation always tried its best to keep
"We will not increase a price just
for increasing a price. It will not
be beneficial for us."
Brown: Concept flawed
Insisting from the onset that the
concept of the VAT removal was
flawed, Brown said the move cost
the Government $400 million in
Brown believes that the move
only created opportunities for
importers and not consumers.
She urged consumers to exercise
collective buying power and start
growing vegetables at home.
On Thursday, the Network of
NGOs sold seedlings to the public
and also gave advice to consumers
on how to utilise spaces in their
homes to grow crops.
A message left for T&T Man-
ufacturers Association president
Nicholas Lok Jack, who is out of
the country, was not returned.
Bharath: Prices council
needs more teeth
President of the Police Social and
Welfare Association Sgt Anand Rame-
sar says the utterances made by Act-
ing Commissioner of Police Stephen
Williams into e-mails allegedly sent
by high-ranking members of Gov-
ernment was a disappointment.
Ramesar, speaking with the T&T
Guardian, said, "The comments of the
Commissioner of Police is a disap-
pointment, as it has the potential to
reduce the efficacy of an investiga-
Ramesar said Williams comments
"also demonstrates a lack of experience
when it comes to conducting inves-
During an interview over the week-
end, Williams said the investigation
could hit a snag if the people implicated
fail to make themselves available for
an interview with the police.
Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley
read from 31 e-mails in Parliament
which implicated Prime Minister Kamla
Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General
Anand Ramlogan, Works and Local
Government Minister Suruj Ram-
bachan and national security adviser
An investigation headed by Deputy
Commissioner of Police Mervyn
Richardson subsequently commenced
after Persad-Bissessar and her ministers
denied knowledge of the e-mail
A vocal Ramesar said the suggestion
by Williams that the investigation could
collapse "if persons do not co-operate
or refuse to be interviewed" was very
Ramesar said that potential wit-
nesses and more importantly suspects
could really interpret Williams state-
ments to mean: "if they are not inter-
viewed, it can be the end of the inves-
"Basic police procedure gives a
policeman the power to interview any-
one while investigating a report. The
only occasion where a police officer is
required to advise someone that they
have the right not to co-operate with
the investigators only occurs when that
person is deemed a suspect and that s
the role of his attorney," Ramesar said.
The association president said there
were too many examples where reports
have been successfully investigated
without the assistance of witnesses
"through basic police tools such as
search warrants and the use of forensic
Adding it is the view of the asso-
ciation that there was sufficient ability
to network a "competent investigation
into the matters arising out of the
alleged e-mails," Ramesar said at this
point, the service could do without
leadership that does not "demonstrate
the fortitude and the backbone that is
associated with strong, healthy, author-
itative and effective policing."
From Page A1
Guardian Editor-in-Chief Judy Raymond presents editorial South team captain Kevon Felmine with the trophy at stake during Guardian's
north/south editorial department clash at QRC grounds, St Clair, Friday, as his teammates celebrate the victory. South won the match by
five wickets after scoring 123 in reply to north's 120 in the 12-over affair. PHOTO: ALVA VIARRUEL
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