Belize City, Wed. Nov. 24, 2021– In the past months, Belizean consumers have been seeing the price of goods rise continuously. Back in September, Prime Minister Briceño attributed the rising prices to increases in the cost of shipping as well as to increased demand for certain items during the pandemic. Of late, however, there have been instances of drastic price hikes that seem to indicate price-gouging by some local stores. Some buyers even posted pics on social media of tins of corned beef that carried price tags as high as eight dollars per can at certain stores.
The government has reportedly been looking into this, and according to a recent Cabinet brief published on November 24, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise was assigned to “conduct a study into the rising cost of living.” “In addition”, said the brief, “Cabinet instructed the Minister to introduce legislation at the next sitting of the House of Representatives ensuring that all necessary legal mechanisms are in place for the relevant authority to pursue merchants and shop owners engaged in price gouging”.
Following that meeting, Prime Minister Briceño told local reporters that they would be targeting this practice via community policing. He shared that they will be relying on consumers to expose those engaged in price gouging, and that officers will be deployed to those stores to address the situation.
“Yesterday, we had an in-depth discussion with the Minister of Agriculture — price supplies control is under his watch, and we decided that what we will do is that now we’re going to do more active monitoring on products that are coming to try to ease or to try to stop as best as we possibly can price gouging. We would be coming back to Cabinet with a paper and then present it to the public. But basically, what we will do is to have consumers be our police officers, that when they see anything with price gouging that they can take a photograph of it. Send it to us to investigate it. And then we are going to increase considerably the fees or the penalties for price gouging. And then we’re going to share what we collect with the person that makes that report. So, then we’re going to have tens of thousands of officers out there ensuring that we can minimize the price gouging that is taking place in some unscrupulous stores around this country,” explained Briceño.
The Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Abelardo Mai, has indicated that his ministry is on the ground checking prices in various stores and they are trying to put in place a ticket system to deter shop owners from engaging in this practice.