Dominica has a serious need for consumer protection. In countries as near as Barbados consumer bodies have challenged the role of companies acting as cartels in the way in which prices are controlled within a small market.
The truth is we need competition. We saw what happened to the price of mobile phones and the cost of telephony. We also see how food prices are maintained by the wholesale and retail communities. It would take one new entrant into this market with little regard for the cozy relationships which govern importing food into this island. The result will be a sure movement downward for prices.
Government cannot be blamed. They are powerless to act other than in facilitating competition. It is those very immigrants to sell to the Dominican consumer. Low priced imports which compete with high priced name and now name brands. The effort to have people consume local is admirable and has plenty merit. However the buy local message will be seen as hot air when the price of buying local is as high as or ever higher than buying imports.
When the IMF made its contribution to the think tank on our economy, it has to be remembered that they were extremely keen on cutting import barriers. The IMF was not concerned with cutting our import bill since it is the IMF paymaster countries from which we import heavily.
The argument that the region is suffering this situation is a credible one. The Caribbean region has the same problem throughout! Whether it is Barbados or St Kitts, food importation is done be a select few. There is little competitive battle in food importing and retailing in the Caribbean. Indeed it is almost like one big family, whilst their customers, disorganized and increasingly cash strapped, stumble their way through the Caribbean experience.
In Dominica here is no quick fix. Our economy could well turn into a barter economy as the prices of commodities go higher and higher. For those Dominica who have a steady income it is frightening to consider how the less fortunate survive. Buying local is not enough. Supporting each other and also becoming less wasteful of food is important.
Keeping a check on price changes and comparing throughout is also a good idea. Maybe one day the patterns will encourage a group of like minded citizens to create a Consumer Watchdog. One thing is for certain, change cannot happen without resistance.
This article was taken from THE TIP â€“ Wed 12/12/2007. THE TIP is a free publication, published every Wednesday and distributed throughout Dominica. Design and Printed by â€“ PrintXpress