Premier David Burt introduced legislation on Friday that will slash customs duty rates on a list of 21 essential items
But hard on the heels of that announcement in the Lower House, weekend bloggers were quick to question whether it will have any real effect on the high cost of food on this island.
Speaking in the House on Friday, the Premier said: “Since the House rose just before Cup Match, we have been working on concrete measures to address the cost of living.
“As I said then, the cost of food is increasing and the Government is committed to reducing the price for essential goods that many families must buy weekly.”
The Customs Tariff Amendment (No.3) Act 2022, reduces duty to 0% for 21 categories: ground beef; chicken (fresh, chilled or frozen); turkey (fresh, chilled or frozen); butter; processed cheese slices; cheddar cheese; green beans; fresh bananas; pepper; cooking oil; tuna (canned and dry packed); pasta; bread (fresh or chilled); jam; peanut butter; tomato ketchup and other tomato sauce; bath soap bars; laundry detergent; dish detergent; diapers for babies; and sanitary towels (pads) and tampons.
“Critically, we have not just applied this to food but also to diapers for babies, laundry and dish detergent and feminine products like pads and tampons,” said Mr Burt.
“Bermudian families are working hard to make ends meet, and the Government has a responsibility to deliver relief to support the people. Grocers, retailers and wholesalers have been collaborative and continue to work with the Cost of Living Commission in this effort, and I truly thank them.
“This is another step in providing assistance to the community and keeps the promise the Government made to provide relief in key areas.”
By 8am this morning, newspaper bloggers had posted nearly 200 comments, with several people saying it may be too little, too late.
One blogger wrote: “Everyone keeps saying that grocery stores won’t change their prices , which I’m sure most will but what some don’t seem to realize is there is very little savings here. The removal of duty is only on first cost. If a grocery store gets a stick of butter for a dollar from their supplier , the relief of 5 percent means that the stick of butter only becomes 5 cents cheaper. It will not change the markup that the store adds.”
Another blogger said the legislation “won’t change the store’s overheads either”. Their final take was “Nothing but Burtin BS”.
“If the government were serious about cutting the cost of living and promoting a healthier lifestyle, they would eliminate the duty on all fresh produce.”
Another blogger asked: “Where is the money coming from to replace funds lost in all of these payouts & givebacks? Not a word about cutting Government costs. Not a word about cutting the size of the CS.”
But in the lead up to the PLP leadership challenge, others said the move was merely electioneering on the part of the Premier.
Another blogger said: “Electioneering that will not help Bermudians,who are fighting the highest inflation ever. How about somebody go and buy the 21 items today and then go buy the SAME 21 ITEMS in 2 weeks time and see the difference in price!”
And another blogger concluded that the prices changes would be “marginal if any change at all cause the grocers can still charge whatever they want”.
On the upcoming leadership challenge that will see the vote taken by delegates on October 20, a blogger using the pseudo-name ‘Circle of Life’, summed it up like this:
“We have to give him props where props are due, Burt is pretty good at making BS sound believable. He is very good at speaking with forked tongue, making little tiny tidbits sound impactful when we all know that the list of items included in the recent zero rating will NOT HAVE AN IMPACT OF ANY CONSEQUENCE WHATSOEVER!”
“Gotta give it to him, the financial update sounded good but hopefully the DELEGATES WILL NOT BE FOOLED for that is all it was, good sound bites.