Beautiful Virgin Islands

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Penn suggests gov’t crackdown on price gouging just a ‘smokescreen’

Penn suggests gov’t crackdown on price gouging just a ‘smokescreen’

Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has aimed criticism at the government’s plans to clamp down on price gouging, stating that without sound knowledge, proper execution and legal authority; the attempt is just a smokescreen.

In a press release dated Tuesday March 15, Penn stated that while the government should focus on consumer protections, its efforts are better placed on levers that it controls and can immediately implement to improve the lives of Virgin Islanders to offset the ‘very real’ impacts of current events in eastern Europe.

“Why not then establish a temporary reduction of import taxes on specific goods (including gas and oil)? An effective mechanism such as this could be quickly implemented to ensure that savings are being passed on to consumers,” Penn suggested.

“Equally as important, public officers and other technical advisers must be fully utilised to ensure policymakers are properly advised and programmes effectively designed and implemented to deliver their intended outcomes; unlike the failed stimulus programme,” the Opposition Leader continued.

There is a broader context than the obvious rise in gas prices

Penn said people need to better understand the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war in the broader context rather than the obvious and immediate impact at the gas station pumps.

“Higher oil prices will likely impact businesses that are energy-intensive such as manufacturing and transportation – which is significant for the BVI. When you consider that in the BVI, we import virtually everything, it is, therefore, likely that we will see the price of goods (and services) rise as a result of the impending increased costs of producing and transporting those goods,” Penn said.

He noted the supply chain has been interrupted during the pandemic which increased the cost of goods, and this will likely continue. The Opposition Leader added that there will be other supply interruptions and commodity shortages including wheat because of the war.

Ripple effect on tourism

Speaking on tourism, Penn said travellers may face increased air and sea transportation fares which will have a ripple effect in the territory’s tourism sector and end with reduced travel to the BVI.

He said this is an outcome the territory can ill afford, especially as people are looking forward to an uptick in spring and summer arrivals to continue stimulating a severely impacted tourism industry.

“It takes a basic understanding of how our economy works, how global issues impact on our economy, and how specific issues such as inflation impact our daily lives, to successfully manage the impact of these issues on our economy. Understanding them on a fundamental level is an even more important prerequisite to advise or implement the appropriate policy actions in response,” Penn said.

The Opposition Leader’s suggestions

The Opposition Leader also offered a few suggestions to reduce the shock on the territory’s economy. He said advancing food sustainability and large production domestically should be supported through “real financial support and other incentives”. Penn added that plans for transportation through the expansion of Beef Island Airport should also be a priority.

“Empowering, facilitating and incentivising the private sector to play a greater role in the development and diversification of our economy; while we must regulate, we should also be prepared to facilitate,” he added.

Penn’s other suggestions include placing a greater focus on sustainable energy; not missing opportunities to borrow loans at a reduced cost. He further suggested that government prioritise achievable economic diversification initiatives as well as utilise technology to aid in decision making.

Utilise available human resources

The Opposition Leader said the government must utilise the available human resources in the territory for advice and guidance while cementing regional and international partnerships for economic development.

“Most importantly, listening and accepting the views of the wider public who bring an array of perspectives to the many issues, we face,” Penn added.

“While we could never fully shield ourselves from global economic shocks, we must place ourselves in the most advantageous positions to be insulated against them. Only our broader policy responses will sustain us in the longer term,” the Opposition Leader said.


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