Now he and his colleagues must ensure that the savings actually reach consumers. This means that they must guard against any sudden ‘hike’ in prices of the newly exempted goods and services that would negate this removal of the VAT. In fact, we need to see a reduction in prices.
But the responsibility lies, not only with the Administration and the suppliers of food, medicines and funeral services, it also lies with us, consumers.
We must use this moment to be watchful and to come down hard on any business, which prevents us from enjoying the intended savings. We must use this moment to send a clear and bold message that we’ve now graduated to a new level of consciousness, sophistication and proactiveness, not only as voters, but also as consumers of goods and services. We need to jump on this opportunity to signal that as citizens and consumers, we’ll take no more crap from politicians or from suppliers of goods and services.
Make no mistake about it: the success story of the election wasn’t the success story of Timothy Harris, Shawn Richards or Vance Amory, or their respective political parties. Rather, it was the success story of a people who’d decided to stand up for ourselves and our children, and to take matters democratically and lawfully into our own hands on Election Day.
And we did such a good job of it that those who we removed are up and down the place chatting foolishness and threatening to sue people, as they drown in the disgrace, which they brought upon this country and upon themselves. We stopped them dead in their tracks! And we were able to do it successfully, because we acted!
Now we have to build on that success by being always at the ready to act, whether as consumers or as citizens. And this removal of VAT on food, medicines and funerals is a great opportunity for us to demonstrate going forward where the real power lies.
Let me, however, add that while it’s ultimately up to us citizens and consumers to ensure our own protection and best interests, it’s always Government’s core responsibility to protect us. And I want to make sure that the new Administration recognizes this, and acts accordingly.
Let’s look at some areas where they need to act.
Firstly, food. While some people have a philosophical problem with price control, I don’t. Without casting aspersions on businesses, or accusing anybody of unfair practices, the final decision as to prices on food and essential goods and services cannot be left entirely to the private sector, and to competition and so-called free market forces. The Government has to look out for consumers.
For example, if a business is involved in importing, wholesaling and retailing food, what’s to stop its Wholesale Division from selling goods to its Retail Division at a 50% mark up, then the Retail Division would price the goods to the consumers at what may be ordinarily regarded as a fair retail mark up of 20-25% on the wholesale price?
If, for example, the Wholesale Division of XYZ Ltd. ‘sells’ a case of 25 tins of sardines to its Retail Division at $60.00, with a 50% mark up, then while each tin of sardines actually costs the Wholesale Division $1.60, the item is ‘sold’ in-house to the Retail Division for $2.40 a tin. Then the Retail Division sells the tin of sardines to the consumer for $2.95, which represents a mark up of 55 cents, or 23% on the wholesale in-house ‘price’.
So from that one tin of sardines, the business collects a profit of $1.35 (80 cents on the wholesale transaction and 55 cents on the retail transaction to the consumer). That’s a mark up of 84% on the original price to the Company. That’s preposterous, and it shouldn’t be allowed
Now if the wholesale mark up was, say, 20%, the tin of sardines would pass from the Wholesale Division of XYZ Ltd. to its Retail Division at $1.92, and a 25% mark up at retail would see the item priced on the shelf at about $2.40 for a mark up of about 50% on the original price to the business, which itself is high! And the consumer would save about 55 cents…. for me, not enough. After all, it’s a tin of sardines!
And the problem isn’t reduced if the consumer buys the sardines from a small retailer who doesn’t import its goods but instead buys them from the local wholesaler, because that same mark up that’s built in to the in-house transaction also applies to the transaction between XYZ Ltd. and the small retailer. So the consumer still bears the load.
But not only that, the small retailer lives at the mercy of the wholesaler. And we’ve seen the death of many small retailers in this country over the years.
The Government quickly needs to examine this, and, where necessary, it needs to act. This is not just a commercial issue; it’s a macro-economic, social and cultural issue, a national security and safety issue.
So I, for one, will not be happy just hearing that VAT has been removed on food. I want also to hear that food prices are fair and reasonable generally. I don’t want to be gouged or to be lured into a false sense that I’m being protected when so much profit can be earned on one tin of sardines. I’m not impressed with a business making a 50% mark up on a tin of sardines. I want consumers and small retailers to be protected. This is crucial!
But others need protection too – Our contractors and tradespersons.
There’s a situation on the Southeast Peninsula that needs to be addressed. Foreign contractors who are allowed in here to do work at Christophe Harbour are being contracted to do work outside of the Christophe Harbour set up. And even within that set up, they’re doing work that locals can and should be doing.
And on top of it all, they’re doing so with the added, unfair advantage of enjoying duty-free concessions and all of the other benefits that come with being part of the Christophe Harbour set up.
Even their trucks to transport workers are duty free so that their transport costs will be far lower than those of our local contractors.
It’s also reported that there’s also a hustle going on and people under that umbrella are importing flat screen TVs, vehicles and other items, holding on to them for a while, selling them at regular prices and importing new ones again and again.
And while I’m on the Southeast Peninsula, I was told yesterday that the roadwork being undertaken by Surrey Paving is to go right down to the Sea Bridge at Majors Bay. What I would like to know is exactly what they’re doing other than kicking up a load of dust and putting more cost of the backs of taxpayers in this country. Will the Government rationalize this project for us, please? And can you all tell us the cost?
I didn’t vote just for a change of personnel. I voted for a change of principle and philosophy. And while I’m all for development and embracing people who come here to be part of our national landscape, proper practices need to be observed at all times and the people of St. Kitts & Nevis and our Caribbean brothers and sisters who live and work here with us must be accorded the highest respect and fairness.
I also want to tell the new Administration and everybody else who has ears that anyone who makes a contribution to a political campaign is owed only one thing: a fair chance. No special deals, no sweetheart deals, no special concessions. No ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’ Government for me. No lime on a yacht or a wine and dine at a top restaurant in New York, Paris or Dubai to lure leaders into betraying the birthright and patrimony of our people! None of that!
Nobody must get a personal vehicle duty free simply because he or she is associated with a project that enjoys duty-free status. Let them go into their pocket like you and me and buy the vehicle. These people must pay their dues and not be allowed to get a free ride off this country. Fair concessions, yes, but nothing more. How else will our people truly progress when developers get the whole nine yards and poor people keep being deprived and dependent? That’s the failed Douglas mantra. That’s what we rejected last month.
So all of that crap must end. And we, the people, must see to it.
I’m also told that a person who is a twice convicted white collar felon in another country wants to infiltrate the Citizenship by Investment Unit and to place a surrogate of his in there. Let me caution the new Administration that such a move, if effected, if even contemplated, would cause no end of problems for us all. The Citizenship by Investment Program and the operation of the Citizenship by Investment Unit need to be tidied up.
I don’t know about you but I didn’t vote for new faces. I voted for a new paradigm.
Let’s move on.
While I’m well aware of the fact that the process of transitioning and settling down is a big task for a new Administration, especially one whose immediate predecessor had sat in office for twenty years, I’m concerned about certain matters (in addition to those mentioned above).
Let me start at the top.
As Governor-General, Edmund Lawrence has been a nightmare for constitutional democracy in this country. Yet he’s still on the job, occupying a position where he can exercise his deliberate judgment and other powers under the Constitution.
One area in which he can exercise the power of his own deliberate judgment is in the appointment of the Supervisor of Elections. All he needs to do is to consult with the Prime Minister, the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition. Consult! He doesn’t need their, or anybody else’s, approval. They don’t decide. He does.
Of course, he can ‘exercise his own deliberate judgment’ in accordance with the wishes of the Prime Minister, and while that may’ve been the case (I can’t say) when he appointed the one and only Wingrove George as Supervisor of Elections, the fact is that he appointed George in his own deliberate judgment as the Constitution authorizes him to do. That, for me, defines Lawrence as a clear and present danger. And he shouldn’t be allowed to continue as Governor-General. He should’ve been out of there by now.
But he’s still there. And I’m very uncomfortable with that.
Every day that passes with Edmund Lawrence and Wingrove George being Governor-General and Supervisor of Elections respectively represents another day of foot dragging.
And the longer this goes on, the more uncomfortable we’ll become.
Then there’s Denzil Douglas. His brazen public boast that he’d gone down to Government Headquarters at 4 a.m. following the elections to remove items from the Prime Minister’s Office impels me to wonder why the police have not questioned him as to exactly what items he removed when he went down there, and what he has done with them. Why haven’t they gotten search warrants and searched him out for these items? Were any of these items flown out in any of the charters that came in for the election? If so, what were they, who carried them, and to whom? I’m just asking.
And why didn’t he take his personal effects while he was removing other things from the office?
And what about his fellow candidates who sat on the platform with him at Upper Market Street when he made that outrageous comment? What does it say about them, other than they fully support and agree with his behaviour and his antics, and are just as undeserving as he is to hold public office. A shame to the Labour Party and Movement!
Douglas knew that he’d lost the elections, and he must’ve known that the proper thing to do would’ve been to get clearance from the incoming Prime Minister to enter the Government Office to take things out. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he said that he’d gotten the approval of Police Commissioner Celvin Walwyn. If Douglas isn’t lying, then somebody needs to ask Walwyn under what authority, with an election lost, did he act when allowing Denzil Douglas to enter the office without getting clearance by the incoming Prime Minister. Should the police question Celvin Walwyn on this?
What is the new Administration doing with regard to Douglas and Walwyn?
And with regard to Walwyn, is it so hard for someone to discuss with retired Assistant Commissioner Joseph Liburd a two-year contract to serve as Commissioner, and former Assistant Commissioner Joseph Richardson to act as a consultant to him, and put the resources of the Government behind the new leadership team, with absolutely no political interference, so that these very capable persons, assisted by the other very capable and dedicated persons already in the organization, can revive policing and reduce crime?
Also, why is Patrick Wallace still the head of the Defense Force?
Has a full audit begun into SIDF, CIU, all statutory corporations and PEP? Will people be appointed to boards based on political patronage, square pegs in round holes, or are we truly engaged in a new dispensation? Will it be the same old, same old, or will we see an exciting blend of experience and youth, across political borders, and all bathed in integrity, genuine unity, altruism and a strong work ethic?
Will this be an exercise in cosmetics or an exercise in dynamics?
It’s been five weeks. And while the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday on the VAT was good, I wanted to hear more. And while I fully understand the critical nature of the process of transitioning, I’m not satisfied with the rate and range of action by the new Administration. I’m saying what I see.
Time for action. Time for the new Administration and the rest of us to do it.
Let’s just do it, man!