Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Stuart Johnson recently received a booklet on maximum prices for hurricane-related items (see related story). This is in principle a good thing, as it aims to prevent the kind of price-gouging that reportedly occurred in the aftermath of September 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The range of products, which includes groceries and construction materials, is rather broad and the businesses involved may have their own ideas about the listed prices. Of course, the relevant ministerial decree only goes into effect when a state of emergency is declared by local authorities.
That’s also a weakness in the system, because it doesn’t allow people preparing for a possible calamity much space to benefit from the price ceilings beforehand. The measure can nevertheless help make a difference during the early recovery when the need may be greatest and even carries a maximum fine of 10,000 Netherlands Antilles guilders for “wilful” violations, whatever that means.
But to present the 2019 booklet mid-September is a bit on the tardy side to say the least, as August and September are generally considered the most active months in terms of tropical weather systems. Something similar happened in 2018, as also pointed out in this column then.
Although government claims it had already made known its prices in various other publications, the booklet is being printed for a reason. The stated efforts to inform supermarkets, hardware stores and other parties concerned indicate how important this aspect is.
This year’s booklet obviously can’t be used for 2020 as prices do change, so hopefully the next one will be out in a timely fashion at the start of the hurricane season or at any rate before its peak. For now, it’s once again an apparent case of better late than never.