Seychelles' Fair Trading Commission recommends price controls as last resort
The CEO made an appeal to importers and traders as well to publish their prices so that the public can get an idea as to where they can get a better deal. (Mervyn Marie)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles' Fair Trading Commission (FTC) has recommended price controls only as a last resort to combat a rise in prices of some goods during COVID-19, an official said.
The chief executive of the Commission, Francis Lebon, told a press conference on Wednesday that despite numerous complaints the "FTC does not have the power to set a margin or prices on the market. It's the market that determines the price. I would like this to come out very clear."
After a meeting with the high-level committee on food security two weeks ago, FTC has made at least 10 recommendations.
"One recommendation is the re-introduction of price control as a last resort. If the government moves in that direction, we would be prepared to reorganize ourselves internally to implement the new ways through legislation," said Lebon.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has "an open economy because price control was abolished. So now we cannot dictate prices. However, we have seen that in certain places price control has been justified for essential commodities only," added Lebon.
Meanwhile, the Commission is "working closely with the Retailers Association to discourage retailers from abusing the current situation to increase the price of commodities and to create unfair competition in the market," added Lebon.
He made an appeal to importers and traders as well to publish their prices so that public can get an idea as to where they can get a better deal in view that there is a current restriction in movements of people.
The Retailers Association on its side has condemned any increase in prices by merchants.
The secretary, Louisianne Jacques, said so far the Association has not received any concrete evidence on the increase in prices.
"We are looking for this information. Come forward and tell us because we are here to work straight, we are here to work with the government, with FTC and with STC if we can," said Jacques.
The association has put in place telephone numbers on Mahe, the main island and on Praslin where people can call to make their complaints. For the central and eastern region of Mahe -- 4266083 or 4266739; northern region -- 2717167; south region --2522501; western region 2725077 and on Praslin 2825869.
On the question of price control, SNA got the perspectives of two economists.
"Absolutely not...this move may harm businesses in an adverse way. By wiping out the profit margins of businesses and cause an inability to charge a high price now to pay for future more expensive food due to depreciation of the exchange rate," said Ingrid Sinon Sinon.
Another economist working in the private sector, who chose to have her name withheld said, "I think the price control will be useful to help people already encountering income issues given the partial lockdown, whereby many businesses are suffering. As long as the government puts a price ceiling that is reasonable and takes into account the fact that imports are now more expensive because of the rupee depreciation against the foreign currencies."