Burt: Help on the way for people grappling with rising food prices
A financial support package for families struggling to deal with increases in the cost of food will be discussed by the Cabinet next week.
Mr Burt said the support being considered would be brought to the House of Assembly before July 15.
He admitted that although the official statistics said food prices had risen by five per cent in the past year, many items had increased by as much as five times that amount.
The Premier said: “An example is in January it was reported that frozen spare ribs increased by 28 per cent in one year.”
He also said that rising interest rates meant that Bermudians would be paying more for loans and mortgages, “further squeezing household budgets”.
Mr Burt said: “Before the House rises on July 15, the Government will bring to this honourable House a comprehensive package to tackle challenges faced by the increasing cost of food that will provide additional support to the many Bermudians who require assistance to make ends meet.
“This package is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Finance, and will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet.”
But he highlighted that the Government was restricted in what it could do to assist the needy and people would have to help themselves.
He said: “There are limits to the support that the Government can provide, as it is vital for Bermuda’s economic future that the Government meets its budget targets.
“With global inflation set to continue for the foreseeable future and with a growing number of economists predicting a recession in the world’s largest economy – and our largest trading partner the United States – all residents must be wise with their spending choices.”
Mr Burt said that when he returned to the Ministry of Finance in February after the resignation of Curtis Dickinson “it came to my attention” that amendments to the Cost of Living Commission Act had never been brought into force.
He said the changes were:
• Increased powers for the Cost of Living Commission chairman or chairwoman to request information from retailers
• The power for the minister responsible for Consumer Affairs to declare a commodity as essential
• The power to require retailers to report the price of essential commodities to the Cost of Living Commission.
Mr Burt said that he met the commission chairman in April and accepted recommendations that 34 commodities would be declared essential, and customs duty on those goods, apart from those with sugar, would be cut to zero per cent.
Mr Burt highlighted that the Government eliminated customs duty on eggs, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips, oranges and apples in 2018.
But he said: “Though the duty on these items were eliminated in 2018, many persons stated that they did not see those reductions passed on to consumers.
“The Act that will be brought into force today contains a provision that retailers must report the price of essential goods to the Cost of Living Commission.
“This means that the public will be able to track the change in the price of the 34 essential goods following the Government’s move to reduce duty on those staple goods recommended by the Cost of Living Commission.”