(SearchLight)The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has launched a platform called the ‘Cost of Living Tracker’ where they will, every quarter, show changes in the price of basic commodities.
Fitzgerald “Fitz” Bramble, the parliamentary representative for East Kingstown, told SEARCHLIGHT on Monday that the ‘Cost of Living Tracker’ will look at the average price of everyday items over a period of time in an effort to make persons aware of rising prices and the seriousness of our economic situation.
Bramble, an economist, and the NDP’s go to person on economic matters, said there is a basket of goods used to determine the consumer price index (CPI), so they will be using these goods as well as several other items. They will also track inflation as well.
“We are just going to look at choosing a basket of items; basic items that people need to live, basic food stuff items and essentials…toilet paper, cleaning supplies, milk, rice, sugar, flour…
“Look at what they cost at a particular point and then check to see the changes in price every three months or as we see fit…,” Bramble explained.
He said the prices at the different supermarkets will be checked and the average taken.
“Let’s just say something costs $2 one place and $1.50 another place, we take the weighted average and come up with the average price,” the politician said while noting that an objective of the ‘Cost of Living Tracker’ is to show government and other stakeholders that the issue is serious and we cannot continue to drop the ball on things like inflation and price hikes of everyday products.
The economist said that while inflation is never entirely a government’s fault, governments have a responsibility to help provide relief and put mechanism in place to help people cope.
He said in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) we import a lot of items, “way more than we export”, and these items come mostly from countries that have stronger currencies than we do, so inflation in these places also affects us in SVG.
He used the war between Russia and Ukraine as a perfect example of outside forces affecting prices locally but noted that government should cushion these shocks in whatever way they can.
“For example we have been proposing the reduction of VAT from 16% to 13%. The NDP will do that and we stand by it and that would provide relief,” Bramble stressed.
He said that everyone pays Value Added Tax (VAT) and that is worth mentioning as it is the only tax that affects all walks of life.
“If you are working, you pay taxes; a business pays business tax; if you own a property, you pay property tax…you don’t pay these taxes if you are not in those categories, but everyone pays VAT so that affects everyone, rich, poor, and in between,” Bramble noted.
He said the NDP, if in power, will review the list of items that attract VAT to see what can be removed.
Bramble said the ‘Cost of living Tracker’ will provide well researched information that will be available through social media and other platforms like radio.