Steps to lower cost of living
SABA--The Public Entity Saba works on different instruments and measures to lower the cost of living.
Reducing the cost of living is one of the focal points of the Public Entity Saba, and is specifically mentioned in the Saba Package 2.0, signed in June this year by Commissioner Bruce Zagers and State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen, as a matter that Saba and the Netherlands will be working on together in the coming period.
One of these instruments is the mechanism of price comparisons at supermarkets, since the price of groceries has a big effect on the cost of living. In July, the first price comparison was published of three supermarkets, Big Rock, Saba Emporium and Saba Wishes. The price comparison will be done on a monthly basis. The subsequent price comparison in August included all four supermarkets.
All product groups
A total of 50 products are checked monthly from all products groups: fresh produce (fruits, vegetables and eggs), meat, long-life food products such as UHT milk, beans and pasta, and non-food products such as soap, toilet paper and diapers.
The overall result of the price comparison, indicating in percentages which supermarket has the lowest prices, is published on the Facebook page of the Public Entity Saba. The details, with the prices and percentages of the 50 products, indicated in colors, are published in Excel format on the website of the Public Entity Saba. Standard measurements are used in the price comparison. The price comparison takes place in consultation with the supermarkets.
Basket of goods
The objective of the price comparison system is to increase consumer awareness: it shows where people can shop which products for the lowest prices that month and can help consumers to make a choice in where they can save money, which in itself can lower people’s cost of living. The price comparison is a different instrument than price regulation via a basket of goods which sets maximum, fixed prices to a number of products of first necessity.
Government is looking into the current basket of goods. An eye is kept on the developments of the expanded basket of goods in St. Maarten and other islands in the region. The support of local stakeholders is essential in the basket of goods system and it requires an integrated approach.
It should be note that grocery prices have increased a lot all around the world, including in St. Maarten and the United States where many of the products available on Saba come from. Government has been in touch with surrounding islands to share ideas and to see what measures can be taken to reduce the cost of living. Government’s role in reducing the cost of groceries is limited, but it is still looking at ways how to assist in getting the prices down. For example, opportunities are being explored with the rotation of containers, making optimal use of containers that come to the island often empty for the export of recyclables.
Several incentives and measures to help reduce the cost of living have been or are in the process of being implemented. These include the subsidy provided by the Public Entity Saba to the Saba Electric Company (SEC) to mitigate the planned 30% increase of electricity prices, the one-time subsidy of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW) for low-income households as a compensation for the higher energy prices which is still being worked on and the subsidy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) to lower the fixed internet prices. Government is working on an initiative with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK to introduce a rent subsidy system for lower income households.
Also, with the financial assistance of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW), the Saba Splash water bottling plant has been constructed. The price of the 3- and 5-gallon water bottles are kept low through a structural subsidy of the same ministry. The price of Saba Splash water is lower than the imported bottled water. By buying Saba Splash water, the consumer saves money. Government is also working on a pilot public transportation project which will start in the coming weeks.