STORIES by SUNSHINE TODAY REPORTER
Amid the dread of Covid-19, one cannot believe that among us are people so unscrupulous that they will seek to benefit from the plight of the suffering.
Numerous complaints have hit the desk of Sunshine Today about scammers and price gougers hoarding items and selling at prices beyond the market value putting citizens at risk at a time when we should be doing everything in our power to assist each other in fighting with this dangerous virus.
People’s fears are being exploited through the spreading of misinformation and consumers are being defrauded as businesses try to woo them to purchase items which are ineffective but the most horrendous crime of all is the inflated price placed on genuine items needed to fight the battle against Covid-19.
Around the world, it is a crime to sell consumer food items, goods, emergency and medical supplies at a price in excess of 10% greater than a price charged before an emergency is declared and even though the government of Trinidad and Tobago is tardy in making such a declaration, we cannot deny that such a condition does not exist.
Increasing the cost has nothing to do with market forces at work. It is simply the exploitation of consumers by mean and greedy business people and in the preparation for the fight against Covid-19 somebody should have thought about ways to defend the unsuspecting public from these unprincipled miscreants.
Unlike more developed countries there is no place neither is there a system for victims to report incidents of price gouging. We do not even know whether in our country such laws exist.
But what we do know is that when we face the counters, the price of sanitizers seems to double and in many cases even treble. Napkins and wet wipes that we could have afforded are now beyond our financial reach.
Toilet paper that we could have purchased in bulk are now being sold in single units at prices we cannot afford. And, what is worse, at a time when we need our Government to defend us, there is a deafening silence and the people know not where to turn.
Our Government should be adopting an attitude that demands its people to focus on helping each other; not engaging in selfish actions to line their pockets and make them deep but instead to adopt philanthropic behaviour that brings our people closer together.
Our Government should have set up some mechanism to crack down on this type of crime. But we lack proactive thinkers at the helm of our country and rather than anticipating during the planning stage, we find ourselves reacting during implementation which results in the suffering of our people.
We never seem to learn from our past and so the destiny of our people would always remain a challenge and now with the inflation that faces us it means many people would not be able to buy a simple hand sanitizer because we acted late in curbing the “cravenous” behaviour of the ruthless and depraved among us.
The role of government
Who does the Government believe stand to suffer the most?
It is the elderly among us, most of whom are scraping by on their low pensions; sick persons like diabetics, especially others with respiratory illnesses, persons with a compromised immune system; these are the people who are faced with the gravest threat, the people with the smallest of means, these are the ones who are most exploited.
And when a basic item like soap is doubled and people cannot afford it because of the price, how do we propose to fight this Covid-19 in a way that takes care of the most vulnerable among us?
We all know that given the narratives behind this pandemic people are going to panic buy. The choices they are going to make are going to be very poor and the items that they will focus on will wreak havoc on their financial situation.
The role of government sometimes is to protect people from themselves. That is why we have legislation that empowers the Chief Medical Officer to forcefully quarantine persons who may not want to adhere to the health regimen put in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
It is for this same reason that the State will not accept someone who is confirmed as an infected carrier, coughing about and sneezing without covering up and not do anything about it.
It is for this same reason that Governments provide information to allow citizens to accept personal responsibility for their health.
But when prices on the items such as soap, hand sanitizers, bleach, disinfectant and wet wipes to name a few items to assist the common man in fighting this virus suddenly are inflated beyond their means and we allow that; we are just as guilty as those who willfully and deliberately set about to infect others.
The Government needs to take a stand now against price gouging and set up a hotline where citizens can report the actions of those who wish to place us at risk during these trying times.