by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 21 October 2007)
I have a question that I am hoping someone can answer for me. I am no economist, but I do know a little bit about how national economies work, which is why I cannot understand why products produced in Guyana cost so much for those who live here.
I have been thinking about this for quite a while now, but I saw a letter printed in the October 17 issue of the Chronicle from Baldeo Persaud that addressed this issue and gave me a reason to write about it.
Persaud said, “Vegetables in Guyana are always expensive except when there is a glut. Some fruits are out of the reach of the small man for example papaya. Fruits that are imported in Guyana tend to be cheaper than locally grown fruits despite mark-up and freight charges for fruits coming from abroad.”
This high cost phenomenon is very interesting to me because although I have never lived in Guyana, I have lived in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama and while living in each of these countries I could buy the locally produced fruits and vegetables for a very, very small sum.
I lived in Panama for several years and got spoilt on the wide array of locally produced bananas, plantains, coconuts, papayas, mangos, avocadoes and many other delectable treats. Many of these I could not get in the U.S. Midwest and if I could, I would pay a high price for very low quality.
Even in Panama, which uses the U.S. dollar for its currency and had no variance in exchange rate from the States, locally produced products were far less expensive than anything imported. I could even buy a wonderfully crafted wood carving for a good price.
In Guatemala I bought hand-woven textiles and in Costa Rica they had small hand painted carts for decoration and those ruffled dresses were adorable on my daughter. In all of these countries I could easily go to the local market and buy what I needed for dinner without breaking the bank.
This was nice since we were living on a very tight budget at the time. Which makes me wonder how those on a tight budget in Guyana manage to survive when even the price of locally produced products cost so much. But what I really wonder is WHY the locally produced products cost so much.
Logic would seem to dictate that Guyanese should be paying very low costs on rice, sugar and locally produced fruits and vegetables. This is the question that is plaguing me. I hope someone can help me understand why those in Guyana have to pay so much for products produced in Guyana.
Perhaps Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud, MBA can use his degree to explain this phenomenon. But I hope if and when he does detail the reason for such high prices on Guyanese product that he does not try to tell me that it is the weather or the increasing global demand that makes Guyana’s papayas so expensive for Guyanese.
Even if the rest of the world wants to pay astronomical prices for papayas, should there not be a reserve for those at home to get papayas for a reasonable price? Surely a socialist party would understand this concept and ensure that the people of the nation are taken care of even in the midst of their own capitalist endeavours?
The people of Guyana should not be expected to pay the same price for Guyanese products as those in other countries who buy Guyana’s food. Moreover, when production of these goods is government run or subsidised, the people should pay very, very low prices since they are the ones who paid to produce it in the first place.
Come on now, you PPP comrades, you have taxed the people so that every pocket is hurting and they already have to pay more for imported products that are not locally produced at present. To make them pay through the nose for fruit and veggies grown in their own backyard is a weight too great to bear.
Why not take a trip to any of your neighbouring countries and see with your own eyes that locally produced goods cost very little. If the government needs to put a cap on the price vendors assign to their local merchandise so that the people are not being overcharged – do it.
I understand the need for taxes. I get that there have been floods that have affected the price of certain products. But my question remains the same – why is Guyana’s food so damn expensive for Guyanese?