Increasing prices of food have always been a major problem under this PNM Government but with one major food distributor warning that if the Forex woes continue, there will be an expected 35% price hike for all foods soon. This is a disaster waiting to happen and the longer the Government sits on their hands and ignore this looming crisis, the deeper the hole becomes.
With this imminent food crisis, the Government has yet to state any new measures that aim to directly address this problem. Everyday citizens continue to complain about the increased prices of basic food items at the supermarket while the Government sits on their hands and does nothing about it.
While I served as Prime Minister, I recognized that keeping the prices of food at a manageable level was one of the most important tasks of my Government. As a result, I mandated that the basket of goods that are VAT exempt be expanded to include over 6000 food items. This aided greatly in the reduction of the price at the counter for members of the public.
This PNM administration reduced the VAT from 15% to 12.5% but at the same time, they reduced the number of items that were once exempted from the tax. Their tactic was one of “giving with one hand and taking away with the other” That will not work as citizens are dealing with numerous challenges. The Government also promised a five hundred-million-dollar stimulus investment into Agriculture in the last budget, but we are yet to see anything concrete from that allocation. What was done with that 500 million to boost our food security?
I am again calling on the Government to expand the list of basket items that are exempted from VAT to include more food items in the short term.
In the long term, the Government must place more investment, beyond the regular lip service in our domestic food production capacity to prevent a possible food crisis