Ongoing dialogue between government and grocers ‘harmonious’, says Press Sec.

Ongoing dialogue between government and grocers ‘harmonious’, says  Press Sec.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Clint Watson yesterday confirmed that dialogue between the government and the Retail Grocers Association is ongoing, with no resolution having been reached as yet.

Watson was asked for an update at a weekly Office of the Prime Minister Press briefing.

He said: “I have no further update on the matter. Those negotiations have been held by Minister Halkitis who has been traveling. We expect an update on it but we are told that they continue to dialogue and work together. It’s been harmonious. That’s about all we can say right now until there is a resolution.”

Retail Grocers Association president Philip Beneby told Eyewitness News on Wednesday that the association is still awaiting word from the government in response to its proposal regarding the Price Control Basket expansion.

Beneby said: “The government said they would get back to us. We haven’t heard anything since then. We’re still waiting for them to get back to us. They said they would get back to us and haven’t gotten around to us yet. They’re probably dealing with some other matters. All we can do is wait until they get back to us. We gave them a proposal and I guess they’re still either studying it or dealing with other matters.”

Earlier this month Beneby confirmed that the association had rejected the government’s latest amended list of items being added to the Price Control Basket. The items on the government’s final amended price control list are the same categories of items initially gazetted.

The Retail Grocers Association has argued that while the government had announced 38 items would be added to the Price Control Basket, it is in actuality 38 categories of foodstuffs, which would affect more than 5,000 items to which inventory and price adjustments would have to be made.

Earlier this month, Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis stated that the government had agreed to provide higher price control margins than what it had originally gazetted for perishable items and had also decided to accept a recommendation from grocers that Family Island businesses be given higher margins.

The association further argued that the move would be detrimental to the local food wholesale and retail industry, and indicated that they would not implement the price control amendments until they received a conclusive response from the government.

As part of its proposal to the government, the association has asked the government to consider further alleviating the burden on the most vulnerable in The Bahamas by eliminating the 10 percent value-added tax (VAT) on breadbasket items. The association also offered to partner with the Ministry of Social Services toward the addition of a 10 percent value on all food stamps/vouchers issued by the Ministry of Social Services.