by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Dr Terrance Drew, said the Government would be collecting data aimed at finding the root cause for the increase in prices.
Despite having the lowest inflation rate in the Eastern Caribbean and the decision by the St. Kitts- Nevis Government to subsidise electricity and lower taxes, there continue to be major outcries from the populace about the cost of living. Many have complained that they were forced to spend a great proportion of their income on grocery shopping and utility bills.
During the Thursday, June 29 edition of ‘Issues’, Drew said there needs to be some explanation for why prices continue to increase.
“Even though St. Kitts and Nevis have seen the lowest inflation rate in all of the OECS countries, there are still concerns when it comes to the increase in the price of goods. I am instructing my Cabinet Secretary to bring the necessary players together so that they can explain to us why the prices are going up at this particular time. We need to know what more we need to do. We are subsidising heavily, but what more do we need to subsidise? As a matter of fact, the corporate tax and so forth, we have not allowed them to go back up, which means businesses have an ease.” So if we are giving you ease on taxes and so forth, we are now asking, “Why [does] the prices of things in the supermarket [have] people complaining?”
Businesses have benefitted from subsidies, but are the benefits being passed down to the consumers? Dr Drew said the Government would be taking a microscopic look at the matter.
“We have our basket [of goods] that we don’t charge much on, and therefore, we want to make sure that when we do these things to benefit businesses, that benefit is passed on to the people because we are subsidising heavily to make sure that we keep prices down for the people here in St.Kitts and Nevis and since we have been observing and listening and the people are speaking to us, we have found it necessary to make sure that we talk to the relevant persons, put the mechanism in place to have a closer look, a very close look, a microscopic look, as to why food prices especially are going up.”
Over the years, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis have instituted several programmes to ease the impact of the high cost of living. The programmes include Poverty Alleviation Program, School Uniform Assistance Programme, School Meals Programme and the Graduate Finance Project.
The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank disclosed in its Economic and Financial Review for 2022 an overview of the consumer price index for St.Kitts and Nevis. “The consumer price index, which measures the rate of inflation, rose by 3.8 per cent, compared with an increase of 1.9 per cent in the previous year. Inflationary pressures were underpinned by an increase in the prices of food, and non-alcoholic beverages (11.8 per cent); transport (9.9 per cent) and alcoholic beverages, tobacco and related items (8.4 per cent).”