Monday, May 20th

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Editorial - Single market

That Member of Parliament (MP) Maurice Lake is concerned about the cost of living on the island (see related story) is understandable. Particularly groceries are said to be quite expensive, certainly when compared to the relatively low average salaries.

Of course, there is the so-called basic necessity basket under government price control, but it regards a very limited range of goods that nowadays aren’t exactly, all considered, among the most healthy things to eat either. One has to recognise that efforts have been made to adjust and expand the package, but it remains a rather small selection.

The monthly price comparisons for other items based on inspections published in the newspaper appear to be useful, because they provide people with a tool to make better choices. Then again, the prices vary greatly even within a matter of days, so some of the information could be dated by the time readers see it.

Transport cost is said to be a factor and the container fees were increased to pay for the harbour bond loan, part of which was for the causeway, Nevertheless, at the opening of that same road/bridge it was stated that the average shipping expenses actually had decreased.

Adding to the local frustration is that, for example, Curaçao has import duties and a sales tax, but still often compares favourably in terms of consumer prices. Such thinking ignores the cumulative effect of the Turnover Tax, although the latter has led to a concentration of importers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers especially in the food business as well.

The size of the market no doubt does play a role and that is precisely why the argument about a supermarket on the French side being able to offer much cheaper products doesn’t really hold water. After all, when the high euro made it worthwhile, many people from there came to shop on the Dutch side.

Things apparently have changed to the point where the opposite is taking place. Businesses on the Dutch side now will have to find ways to deal with this situation and one of them in Cole Bay already has introduced a well-known brand line from France in response. That is the beauty of free and fair competition, also across the open border to access what is essentially a single market called “The Friendly Island.”