Global price increase around 6 percent Union concerned about rising food pricesPOSTED: 08/10/12 12:11 PM
St. Maarten – “There is no clarity in direction. Everyone is doing as they please and no one is focusing on commodities.” These sentiments were expressed by president of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labour Unions, Theophilus Thompson yesterday as he commented on the rising cost of living in this country.
Thompson said that not only this present political administration is to blame but previous governments as well for not heeding the complaints of workers.
“The situation on St.Maarten is not as it should be when it comes to the plight of the workers …everyone is complaining about the high cost of living.”
The union called for the situation to be addressed in a comprehensive manner recommending that there be even stricter controls on food prices, adding that the control on imported products can result in better monitoring of retail prices. It must start from customs, Thompson suggested.
“We need to have some form of control as far as the “bill of lading, invoicing, manufacturer and wholesaler prices are concerned.”
He provided two vivid examples of how consumers were being affected by rising prices. Because of the island’s duty free ports, neighboring islands purchase large quantities of food items here. However, Thompson said that upon investigating these islands were found to be selling these same commodities at prices lower than St.Maarten.
“When you compare prices on St.Maarten with neighboring islands, the price is so much cheaper there.”
Only civil servants and teachers clearly benefit from cost of living adjustments, which exist to cushion the effects of price increases on an individual’s salary.
Via a structured system, it is an increase in pay that is intended to keep the buying power of an employee’s salary the same during a period of inflation. Without a cost-of-living raise, the declining value of the dollar would leave workers with less ‘real money’ in their pockets.
The private sector is only restricted from paying lower than the gross minimum wage for a 40 hour workweek which now stands at 1379.70 guilders ($ 766.50) and 1655.70 guilders per month ($919.83) for a 48 hour work week.
“Every month things increase here by 5 percent or 10 percent. But employers are refusing to give any salary adjustments even though the cost of living increases,” Thompson decried.
On July 7, Today reported that based on the information provided by the Department of Statistics on the Consumer Price Index, St. Maarten’s food commodity prices showed considerable increases over the past twelve months (June 2011 to June 2012). As of February this year, food prices have been inflated by double-digit percentages, reaching a peak inflation of 13.7 percent in June 2012. The food category accounts for 10 percent of the consumer basket and the relative effect that the inflation recorded in this category has on the total consumer inflation rate is approximately 28 percent.
Thompson said that the union plans to formally raise its concerns with the Minister of Economic Affairs, Transportation, Tourism and Telecommunication Romeo Pantophlet.
The St.Maarten situation may also be a mirror of what is occurring internationally.
Global food prices rose six per cent in July after dropping for three months, largely because of a hike in the price of grains and sugar, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said on Thursday as well.
The FAO’s Food Price Index, a monthly measure of changes in a basket of food commodities, was 12 points higher at 213 points but remains far off the record 238 points reached in February 2011, a statement said.
Drought in the United States, weather problems in places like Brazil, India and Australia and high oil prices have all been blamed for the hike in food prices.
Higher food prices usually mean higher import bills for countries that do not produce enough food domestically.