Residents told to brace for price hikes and business closures

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By Kadeem Joseph

There is a stark warning for residents of Antigua and Barbuda who are being told to expect for higher prices of goods during the remaining months of the year.

The caution is coming from two major business insiders here, amid skyrocketing transportation and warehouse costs and pressured supply chains currently being affected by a limited workforce in source markets like Europe and the US.

“We don’t produce anything here; we import. So, obviously, the prices going up over there will just be translated here,” the Immediate Past President of the Antigua and Barbuda Employers Federation, Leslie Salmon said. “It would be imported inflation.”

However, Salmon believes that luxury items will see higher increases in cost compared to food items.

The Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, Martin Cave, agreed that costs will be going up for consumers in the months to come, but added that he was especially concerned about increases in the price of oil.

“There is a scarcity in Europe. The US also has some energy problems there,” he said. “I think that we are trying to transition from a carbon economy to a green economy too quickly; there is a mismatch there, there is a gap and if we can’t manage that, we are going to continue to see inflation.”

Meanwhile, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to batter businesses, many of which have been forced to close, adjust hours and lay off workers, Salmon believes that some businesses could be on the verge of collapse.

“I don’t think realistically that business can go much longer, that’s the sad part,” he said noting that he was confident that by 2021 with the introduction of vaccines things would have already normalised.

But despite his disappointment, the businessman said that he believes in the resilience of the human race and “we will find a way out”.

Cave shared similar sentiments, stating that if the “strictures” on businesses are not relieved soon, a breaking point may become a reality soon.

“Businesses cannot continue to operate within the limited times that we have been given because you need some night activity; you need the visitors to be moving around; we need the injection of spending to circulate within the economy, and all the small businesses and micro enterprises need to be funded,” he explained.

Both Cave and Salmon were speaking on state media Wednesday night.

The government continues to push for greater vaccine uptake in the hopes of achieving herd immunity and ultimately fully opening up the economy.

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