By Robert A. Emmanuel
The Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce has joined forces with the Customs and Excise Division within the Ministry of Finance to address the rising cost of living.
Over the past few years, due to the coronavirus pandemic coupled with the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has hampered global food and fuel supplies, economies worldwide including Antigua and Barbuda have been struggling with increasing prices.
According to the last published figures from the Statistics Division of Antigua and Barbuda, inflation has seen an 8.6 percent rise for the 12 months ending September 2022, with food rising by 14.6 percent over the last 12 months.
During a town hall meeting last week, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Martin Cave explained that the two entities have agreed to coordinate efforts to reduce the burden on consumers.
“Internally at the Chamber, we have already started putting persons together to look at the price of the charges at the port,” he said.
“We wanted to look at the pricing structure — the way the charges are compiled at the port, whether it be the revenue recovery charges, or the ABST,” Cave explained.
He added that while new legislation would be required to make any major change regarding these structures, developing suggestions to make it easier for all Antiguans and Barbudans was his priority.
He also explained that during conversations with Customs Comptroller Raju Boddu, it was revealed that one of the greatest constraints with the single window system was its under-utilisation by government institutions.
The single window system in Antigua and Barbuda was established in 2019 by the International Maritime Organisation with the aid of Norway, enabling all information required by public authorities in connection with the arrival and departure of ships, people and cargo, to be submitted via a single electronic portal.
The Chamber of Commerce head added that he hoped the partnership with Customs would help reduce the burden on businesses and individuals.
“Everything we bring in at the port ends up either on shelves, in business or our homes, so however prices are affected at the port they will affect us in our pockets, so this is our way of trying to find a solution,” he said.