Ever Increasing Prices: Who Is To Blame
Posted on December 24th, 2010

Herold Leelawardena

None can deny that commodity prices have gone up tremendously in this country. But this is a global phenomenon than a Sri Lankan ailment. WeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ve heard onion prices have increased fourfold in India. And the cost of food items in the UK has gone up as never before. We need not mention extraordinary rise in the cost of living in the near bankrupt nations like Ireland and Greece Portugal.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Some try to blame the traders for price increases. Now, donƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t get me wrong, I am no trader. In fact, I hate unscrupulous traders as much as all other consumers. I would go so far as to say some traders are worst than corrupt politicians. They would not lose any opening to make a fast buck. It is happening in supermarkets as well. Page may don a man as Santa but he will never be a Santa. If you were a trader, I say, you would follow suit as well. What can the government do is the vital question?

The opposition tries to blame the government. But they do not pin point the correct reason. Like in many western countries, Sri Lanka also has a consumer protection act. As per its laws and by laws all items that are advertised for sale in periodicals etc should be price marked. But many a newspaper and publication flout that sensible rule of law openly. So much so, almost all advertisements are designed to deceive the shopper. For example; very many items that are offered for sale on monthly payment are price marked. Monthly payment is marked in big letters but number of months to pay or total price is not mentioned even in small letters. What a cheek.

Consider this: Except for supermarkets, no trader in Sri Lanka that I know of abides by even the fundamentals of the consumer protection act. Some dishonest traders never price mark the goods they display for sale. Many others mark prices of their wares in codes. Clearly, the aim of such traders is to swindle customers. They charge the customer to suit circumstances. If itƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s a festive season as it is now, they tend to charge as much as they could.

All Traders must be compelled to abide by the consumer protection act. If that happens, traders would be compelled to limit their profits. If not, a competitor may put up a counter advertisement to sell the same item at a lesser price. Likewise, if all traders price mark all their goods that they display for sale openly, consumers would have the choice to select the one that offer lowest price.

In Sri Lanka, there had been a whole heap of ministers in charge of trade from time to time. But none bothered to implement that consumer protection act fully. Is it the wrong guy in the wrong place or is it just apathy? I do not know. For one thing I know is; our good President cannot look in to everything. But, in the face of ever increasing prices, he ought to look in to this matter seriously.

The question remain for us is why the prices have gone up so much in Sri Lanka? I am no economist. But I would attribute it to tremendous increase in consumption since the end of the war. Festive season is another. One may be inquisitive to find out who eat that much to affect prices increases so much.

They may not know that that a single foreign tourist eat more than five times an ordinary man in this country eat. Right now, there is a hundred percent increase in tourist arrival. I mean foreigners as well as Sri Lankan expats. They gobble down all the available high-quality vegetables, fish, fruit and etc that are normally consumed by locals. And that is just one reason for the scarcity of essential commodities.

Then there is another reason. Visit a rural village and inquire tactically whether they eat better today than last year. In the village hamlet I live, ordinary folks that had not eaten fish once a week few years back now eat at least twice a week. The fact that there was no opposition election campaign based on children crying for milk or hunger is the best proof for my observation. The fact that people dress well is another. It is natural for people to complain but ordinary man knows that they are better off today than they were ever before.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Now, letƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s talk about the coconut prices. There are several hundred high yielding coconut trees in my estate in the Colombo district. I must say, current high coconut prices had not increased my income let alone profits. Labor is scarce; as a result one has to pay more for it. There are no machines to pluck and collect coconut.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In December quarter, yield is always half of usual. That is why prices are always high in December. This time, not just the yield is less than December usual, but it took longer than usual to ripen the nuts as well. I do not know the exact reason; maybe it is the excessive rain we had. Now then, one need not be an Einstein to gauge why price of coconut has gone up. If Jesus were buzzing around he may have doubled or quadrupled the number of coconut as he did for bread and wine but I wonder whether the government can do the same as some Rubble-rousers expect.


15 Responses to “Ever Increasing Prices: Who Is To Blame”

  1. De Costa Says:

    One woman complained in this site hinting that prices gone up and because of this to politicians want to get bribes from the importers – so government let them import.
    Various setcs, groups,racists and other betryers are taking every advantage to discredit the country at every oportunity.
    International oil price has gone up 20% within months due to uncivilized middle east murderers and US getting together and profititering. No one talks about that.

  2. Terry Says:

    Well Done Leela
    As you say you are not an economist.
    SL, in the past used to export Coconuts, Flour to India: self sufficient in Chicken,Eggs and to a certain extent wheat and onions
    Now we are seeing Chicken, Egg & Onion drops from India

  3. dhane Says:

    Thank you Herold you explained correctly. I am in Australia I can see the same situation in much worse than Sri Lanka. Two big super Markets start to issue petrol coupon for every AUS$30/- purchase cents 0.08 per liter discount to buss their sales with increased prices as usual. These two super markets control Shall & Caltex petrol stations and they increased and manipulated petrol price to suit the 0.08 discount. This what happening in most countries. Let Opposition in Sri Lanka tell their solution to reduce the cost of living rather than distributing leaflets in Railway stations.

  4. mjaya Says:

    What De Costa says about oil prices is right. I wonder why most of our imbeciles don’t understand the simple fact that when oil prices go up, transport costs go up as well. This in turn affects many commodities, especially those that are imported.

  5. nandimitra Says:

    The people vote governments in to see that the laws are observed and the prices charged are fair . If price rises are unjust then the finger must be pointed at the governments for its faliure. No amount of excuses be it oil price rises or otherwise can extricate the govt of its duties .

  6. Sajith Says:

    Rajapakshas and their extreme corruption. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone in Sri Lanka. Gothapaya making Rs. 100 for every cement pack. Basil earning 10% of all imports. Send them home and we will have lower inflation.

  7. Sri Rohana Says:

    Sajith if we send home Rajapakse’s then who will come to power? Tamil pimp Ranil and his American boot lickers, J.J, Ravi.K will come to power (I don’t think Sri Lankan’s will bring them to power??) Then only Eelamist can dream of Eelam again.
    Sajith why do you have a fake Sinhala name to cover your real tamil name? Are you sachithanathan? Or you and Babaloo are same? If you have a backbone please write with your real tamil name pl.

  8. De Costa Says:

    No machines to pluck coconuts ?
    In Malaysia they are using monkeys to do the job. Can’t you try this trick. Plenty of monkeys in Sri Lanka. May be Malaysian monkeys can train them. May be Sajith could supply labour (he may have relatives. Let him charge 10%)
    In Malaysia Datuk Sri Mahathir Mohamed is known to be extremely corrupt. New leaders are not much better. There, every contract must jack up 20%. If you are talking about 10% Basil is much better.

  9. mjaya Says:

    Whats the matter “Sajith”? There is a saying that habits die hard the way you wrote Gotabaya (“Gothapaya”) says it all!

    A typical spineless “Eelam” dreamer!

  10. Ben_silva Says:

    The price in a free market is determined by supply and demand. The way to lower the price is to increase the supply by providing incentives to producers. The increased demand may be caused by arrival of tourists to Lanka, increased money in circulation, increased wages and also the amount of money going into the economy due to various projects. The increased price should be an inducement for more suppliers to come into the market. An open economy should allow more players into the system.The Government should prevent hoarding and artificial increase of price.

  11. sena Says:

    There is no free market in Sri Lanka but monoploies. Check the prices paid to the producer and the price consumer pays at the market, there is a huge difference. Many consumer outlets are monopolozied by few individuals by thuggary or political influence. I think in Sri lanka traders would rather discard produce and fish than lowering the prices.

  12. Leela Says:

    In a country like Sri Lanka, if private sector alone is allowed to operate a free market economy, as RanilW and RaviK wanted to make up when they were in power during 2001-2003, it would fail. It may have worked in the US. But for an open economy to succeed in Sri Lanka, in my opinion, the government must be an effective player in every sector. I mean retail as well as production. However, that doesn’t mean none of it should be allowed to run at a loss.

    In addition, the consumer protection act must be implemented to the letter. Though this government is moving towards that direction it is not happening yet. If that happens hoarding may not be possible at all.

  13. Ben_silva Says:

    It appears that no improvement of the situation will take place until the consumers get organised, have a voice and show their power as consumers.

  14. ranjit Says:

    People like Sajit and Ranil can sling mud at the President and his family any amount they want but majority knows the truth in this country.Dont talk rubbish about Gota your tounge will come out for your lies. Liers can dance as much as they like simple truth is cost of living is high every corner in the globe. China,Iran,EuropeLatin America have raised the gas and oil prices and their peole too crying for solutions so dont blame the Goverment for Coconuts and Bread any Goverment comes it will be same nobody has black magic for the cost of living only thing we have to cut down our wate and be tough on errant traders who cheat poor consumer. Evryone wants to earn a buck by hook or crook.That’s our culture from the day we got the Independence. We need to correct it and this is the time for that under the leadership of our great leader President Mahinda Rajapksa.

  15. De Costa Says:

    Please give a try to Malaysia method ( this is not a joke.)

    This is about your comment on allowing private sector alone.
    You are abosoultely right. A very good example was CTB. There was a bus runinig to every corner of the island at a fixed time.( Probably one of the best services in the world , that time.) Politics ruined it. 40 workers per bus. Now the private busses came back and it is still a mess. SBS ( Singapore Bus Service) copied CTB and at the right time they sold partly and still operates an excellent service. Singapore is a country which has a huge private sector with proper government control.
    This is the best example. No company can play unfair , yet easy to do business.

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