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Don't expect decrease across-the-board

Ramadhar on VAT removal:

By Gyasi Gonzales gyasi.gonzales@trinidadexpress.com

LEGAL AFFAIRS Minister Prakash Ramadhar has expressed optimism over Government's plan to reduce food prices.

Ramadhar said following a series of meetings with the Supermarkets Association of Trinidad and Tobago and the Food Distributors Association, "we will continue to investigate and see where there is merit and where there is not" in terms of adjusting the prices of food.

He confirmed that a list of food items from which Value Added Tax (VAT) of 15 per cent has been removed will be in today's newspapers.

Ramadhar, who is also political leader of the Congress of the People (COP) and St Augustine MP, yesterday joined the Tunapuna branch of the Trinidad and Tobago Diabetes Association in commemoration of World Diabetes Day, which is celebrated on November 14 every year.

Both groups walked through the streets of Tunapuna issuing advice to promote a healthy lifestyle in a bid to slow down the amount of new diabetes cases, which Ramadhar described as "preventable".

Speaking as the Legal Affairs Minister, however, Ramadhar continued: "When a listing of these items becomes available and, yes, I know it will be a burden on the supermarkets to actually change their labelling, but I will also imagine that a simpler means to it rather than changing all the labels would be to put a large sign over the product showing the before and after prices."

Ramadhar also spoke about the abuse meted out to consumers, stating: "We are working towards bringing in an already existing act called the Fair Trade Act, but it has not been properly put into force with a fair trade commission, which would have the legal authority to investigate and to bring to the High Court if we find there is any undue fixing of prices, so that is something I am looking to bring into force."

Ramadhar also advised consumers: "Don't expect a 15 per cent decrease across the board," adding that businesses needed their profits for survival.

"But there comes a time when these profits are obscene, but at the same time when we see these high mark-ups it may encourage others to get into business and open up the market and restore fair trade because at the end of the day it is always up to the consumer not to pay these high prices."

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