MM writes: Nice, we can all see that election is right around the corner. The notices are pouring in to parents from the public schools about all the great intervention programmes that are now being passed down from the Ministry of Education; and our premier himself has stepped out prompting us parents to pay better attention to our children’s unhealthy eating habits and to ensure they have adequate nutrition in their diets because of his grave concern with the obesity levels.
We are encourage to provide more fruits and veggies, less sugary foods and healthier drinks/juices; but what Mr Premier has forgotten is that not all parents make a politician’s salary each month.
You can go to the supermarket and pay less than $3 for a sugar-loaded, artificially coloured, packed with nothing but preservatives and chemicals 8-pack of “juice” cleverly marketed in bright packaging with happy cartoon characters gulping it down. However, right beside that 8-pack is the 100%, sometimes organic, healthier choice, 8-pack juice going for $6-$8.
Let’s face it now, the majority of children on this island do not have parents who can afford to consistently maintain a healthy array of food within their home when most people on this island survive on Ramen noodles and IGA products (or whatever the next brand of cheaper, chemical and preservative packed brand may be).
It is a common complaint that the prices in the supermarkets continue to rise as we observe the new shopping carts coming in and new, more energy-efficient refrigerated storage units being installed. Somebody has to pay for it and businesses can feel the pinch of high prices too.
However, I am sure if we all truly consider when we all began to notice that our grocery bills were doubling although our list was very similar to the one we have always written – this noticeable rise in prices happened around the time that our sitting government coined their 232 page Custom’s Tariff Law, which has been revised each year since 2014.
This seems to be the most revised law in the Cayman Islands and yet we still cannot get a proper landlord and tenancy law going. The government must have realised it is far easier to continue to squeeze income from persons and companies importing items than from chasing the millions of delinquent garbage collection bills and unpaid residential lease stamp duties, amongst other things.
To put things in to perspective; let’s consider a few of the items that are all duty free – and take some time to REALLY think about who is benefiting from them.
So, items that remain duty free (even in this day and age when every penny counts and every added percentage can literally kill): perfume, leather, coffee, to get started lightly.
Drinking glasses and other items of lead crystal are 0%, natural and/or cultured pearls are 0%, diamonds and precious stones are 12%, non-monetary and monetary bullion is 0%, most items of silver/gold/platinum are 12%, gold coin and precious metals are 0%, sunglasses and cameras are 0%.
Wrist watches of precious metal (a.k.a. Rolex, etc) are all 7% duty.
Wool and silk are also at 12%. Really now?
And of course there are useful articles that also have the advantage of being 0% like children’s books, yarn, educational reference books, items particular to farming and feeding farm animals; but overall, I do not know anyone who can live without food.
X-ray machines, most dental equipment, artificial teeth, examination tables and chairs, breathing appliances and masks, syringes with or without needles, other medical equipment are at 22%.
Children’s and babies’ clothing, shoes, blankets and most toys are at 22% (so remember that the next time you want to pass out over the prices in our local children/baby stores).
Now – compare the necessity of those low duty and no duty items to things like Kiwi, pineapple, apricots, prunes, apples, coconuts, bananas, dates, figs, avocados, guavas, grapefruit, raisins, pretty much any and all fruits and veggies, as well as walnuts, cashews and other nuts, which all attract customs duty at 17% to 22%. And we wonder why it costs an arm and a leg to buy healthy, fresh foods.
Please see pages 24-29 of the Customs Tariff (2016) Law.
I am not sure how familiar with customs duty the broader public is but the duty is calculated on the cost of the produce in addition to whatever the shipping charge was. So for supermarkets shipping in thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables per month, 22% is a pretty hefty percentage to absorb. Therefore, this cost must be shifted to the consumer in order to run an efficient business.
So, let’s say Supermarket A spends … (I have no clue what their real costs must be like, most likely even higher than this). So, moving on.
Supermarket A spends a total of $175,000 per month shipping in fresh fruits and vegetables, for a total of $2.1 million per year. 22% of that cost must be paid to government totalling $462,000 per year or $38,500 per month.
And we are wondering why buying a cart full of groceries can cost a small fortune, especially when we attempt to go organic. And now parents are being side-lined by political messages emphasizing the importance of healthy eating for our children!
And yet, Perfume Shop A imports $2.1 million per year in fragrances and pays absolutely not one red cent to government. Who is REALLY benefitting? And I do not want to hear the excuse that our duty free perfume attracts thousands of tourists because the direct government income from tourism does not come near what government receives from imports. In addition to that, ‘they’ want to rail the excuse that our tourism encourages investment and development and clients to financial services.
First of all, most of the financial services high net worth clientele have never and do not want to ever bother to even fly to Cayman. What for? And how is the tourism development helping when government consistently waives millions of dollars worth of stamp duty whenever someone promises they “employ Caymanians”.
I remember (and the newspaper articles are online) the Ritz continuously threw out that line and they are now one of the top employers of work permit holders. So please, hold the nonsense.
So our government waives duties for billionaire investors and casts the burden on our families (at least in my opinion).
And yet, if we take a browse through this 232 page document, it will open your eyes to the reality that the government truly does dictate the standard of living maintained by all who reside on these islands, as they divert our attention in other directions with expressions just as those found within the premier’s recent address of concern over the obesity and health of our children.
It does not take a rocket scientist to compare the supermarket pricing with the cost of duty within each category. We should all be aware that you can get a good-sized bag of flour for less than $3; the cost of duty is 0%. And this is one example amidst thousands.
You can also get oats, rice, some cereals, corn starch, margarine, lard, sugar, colouring of various sorts, cocoa powder containing added sugar or not containing added sugar, chocolate coated breakfast cereals, uncooked pasta, mixes and dough at very reasonable prices in the supermarkets – all of these attract 0% customs duty.
And if anyone out there is familiar with the supermarket prices or their frequently on-sale items, foods which fall into the duty categories of which I have listed are significantly cheaper and show up with the green flags or within the newspaper inserts very often.
Is this not evidence that the customs duty (which was once between 10% and 20%, at some points lower) is truly what is dictating whether families (especially lower income families) are able to provide healthy alternatives for meals?
Not only does this affect the family, it also affects the preschools, nurseries, primary schools, high schools, restaurants, and so forth; which is why to eat healthily on this island has become a privilege and restaurants who offer healthy items are considered a luxury. The produce must be priced in a manner that the seller considers total cost, purchase, shipping, 22% customs and, of course, a margin for profit and the likelihood that a good portion of the produce will rot before being sold.
Of course, we are all drilled to feel that since we have no other taxes, we should shut up, sit down and be grateful, but the reality is that for a tax-free country, we are still listed as one of the countries in the world with the most expensive cost of living.
And with a minimum wage of $6 per hour ($960 per month at 40 hours per week), how can anyone turn a blind eye to the precise root cause of why we must pay an arm and a leg for groceries on this island, or rather, healthy grocery choices on this island? And on Cayman Brac the prices are even higher and there are people feeling the pinch.
So, with all due respect to our ‘leaders’, you are all obviously too well-paid and far too comfortable to truly understand what is happening in the lives of most of your constituents and the people who insist on electing you term after term after term on the promise that they too will one day be able to afford to provide healthy meal alternatives to their families.
This comment was posted on the article Premier worried about obesity rate in local kids