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Premier: Stores 'raping' customers with price increases

Premier Paula Cox

Premier Paula Cox has branded suppliers as "inhumane" for upping their prices and "economically raping" those who are struggling to make ends meet.Ms Cox, who is also Minister of Finance, used this week's town hall meeting on the economy to spell out the benefits of the Price Control Commission. She said when it comes to what Government was doing to strengthen the economy, protecting consumers from price increases was "the real biggie".Ms Cox told the crowd of about 200 people at Warwick Workman's Club on Tuesday that the panel to probe the rising cost of basic essentials was "a tool of empowerment".Talking about the Price Control Commission, Ms Cox said: "Stay tuned and look out for what they are doing. They want interaction from all of you. We all know there are discrepancies and widely different prices."The most inhumane thing to do is when people are struggling is to rape them economically."In the House of Assembly last week Ms Cox made the long-awaited announcement that Government, suppliers, retailers and consumers would be working together to try to tackle people paying too much for food while suppliers continued to cash in on their profit.It will be the responsibility of the Price Control Commission to identify the essential goods and services to be the focus of the enquiry. The three-person panel will then produce a report for Ms Cox recommending on how Government can assist in ensuring that consumers get the best prices.Ms Cox urged people to take advantage of the Price Control Commission saying it "wasn't just linked to the cost of groceries".The Premier said she "wasn't naming stores" but she had been made aware of one item on sale in one store for $25 and the same item costing only $18 in another store. Ms Cox said: "This proves there are people out there who are benefiting and being unreasonably extortionate."Ms Cox was speaking during the town hall meeting in response to a question by an audience member who asked how Government was helping the public to save money.The town hall meeting featured a panel made up of Ms Cox, Business Development and Tourism Minister Patrice Minors, Youth, Families and Sport Minister Glenn Blakeney and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Kim Wilson and Community Development Minister Michael Weeks.About 15 questions were asked including one woman in international business who said she was in favour of extending term limits to CEO's, but questioned whether company "decision-makers" should also be included. She said everyone would be fighting to be named a decision maker.Ms Cox said she "entirely endorsed" her concern and only those in the top tier of businesses would be eligible. She said: "We are not talking about opening up the shop at all."One man said he had heard "lots of talk about technical programmes" but questioned what she was doing to secure the jobs of professionals such as accountants, engineers and teachers.Ms Wilson said giving out work permits was now "heavily scrutinised" to ensure no Bermudians were available with the right skill sets.The Minister said she always "looked very closely" at the job pages in The Royal Gazette and "scrutinised every advert" to make sure companies weren't wording adverts to target certain individuals. She said it was particularly important to do this when redundancies had been announced.Ms Wilson told the crowd: "If people feel aggrieved or that the policy is not working fairly, please report it to Immigration. There's a hotline and we are only a phone call away."