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Oversight board to dissolve next month

By Shalveen Chand SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 4, 2010) - DESPITE next month's expected dissolution of the Prices and Incomes Board (PIB), the price of basic items would remain under tight control in Fiji.

Items currently listed for "price control" include fuel, flour, sharps, bread, tea, butter, cabin and breakfast crackers and medicines.

This assurance that basic items would remain under "price control" came from Commerce Commission chairman Dr. Mahendra Reddy, under whose direction the responsibilities of PIB would soon come.

The change was due to occur mid-next month.

Dr Reddy said the Commission would ensure that prices in the market remained at competitive levels.

He said 146 items that were under "price surveillance" were no longer monitored by PIB from late November.

But he clarified that "price surveillance" items were different from "price control" items.

Items that previously came under "price surveillance" included ballpoint pens, toilet paper, candles, coffee, chalk, matches, mosquito coils, orange juice, all paper products (stationery), sausages, sanitary protection products, soap, split peas (dhal), yoghurt, socks, footwear, furniture, Hindu Pooja packets, chalk, blackboard and pea flour.

For those 146 items, retailers were free to vary prices without having to give authorities the 12 weeks notice which was required prior to November last year.

"There is competition among supermarkets when it comes to such items and obviously dealers will not be wanting to lose customers so the market competition will keep the prices at a minimum, ensuring that prices do not get inflated," he said.

Ecumenical Center for Research Education and Advocacy activist Father Kevim Barr said the market still had to be regulated for certain items.

"The government needs to keep control on a number of items. The government did say this was an archaic means of regulating things but it's still being used in developing countries like ours," he said. "We still need price control to be set in place".

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