Solomon Islanders Being ‘Ripped Off’ By High Prices: Investor

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Businessman says Price Control Unit not effectively regulating prices

By Daniel Namosuaia

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 10, 2014) – Solomon Islanders have been victims of their own legislation, a foreign investor says.

The investor, who asked not to be named, said 90 per cent of goods sold in the country are priced way beyond what citizens can afford.

He questioned whether the Price Control Unit of the Ministry of Commerce has regulations in place to control prices.

"I wonder if there is a policy or regulation in place to control pricing of goods imported into the country," the investor said.

"It seems that businesses in the country take advantage of this and set their own prices five to ten times higher than what it should be," the investor said.

He said a good example is the price of imported tin food that could only cost between $5 to $10 [US$0.68-$1.36] but was sold in the shops for more than $20 {US$2.72].

He said most of the goods sold in shops in the country are imported from China and he knew how much these should be sold in the country.

"But if you look at their selling prices, the shops were making like ten times their mark up prices.

"This is sad because they are ripping consumers off.

"Average income earnings of people in the country could not match up with these prices.

"If a good is bought by the importer for $1 [US$0.14] and paid the 30 percent import tax, that good should be sold not more than $4 [US$0.54].

"But that is not the case. Today this good could cost more than $10. Businesses are ripping customers off," the investor said.

He added this is one of the serious factors holding back development in this country.

The investor stressed that Solomon Islands is only a small country and should not have problems to speed up its socio-economic development.

Advisor to the consumer affairs division Douglas Alex said the only regulation the country has is the Price Control Act of 1982 which urgently needs a review.

He said the current act is very narrow and does not cover most of the goods imported into the country.

Mr Alex said there is urgent need to broaden this act to cover more goods to ensure their prices are controlled.

"An order covering most of the consumable goods has already been approved by the minister and given to the Attorney General for its legal interpretation before it is gazetted," Mr Alex said.

He said this is a move to ensure that the prices of these goods are controlled rather than what is happening now where shop owners put whatever mark up prices they want on the goods making their prices skyrocketing and uncontrollable.

He said they hope the new order will be ready this month and for them to start implementing the order.

He added that the same thing has already been done with Soltuna (taiyo) products.

However, he stressed that competition is another factor which they have to really monitor the market before setting prices, which on the other hand might disadvantage consumers.

Mr Alex said the consumer affairs division is currently looking at controlling consumable goods at this stage but will continue in the near future to include non-consumable goods.

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