Lawmakers said on Tuesday that legislation introducing a ‘household basket’ – a weekly list of lower-priced staple goods – would be delayed to next year as stakeholders hammer out the details of the measure, intended to introduce greater competition in retail.
The matter was discussed at a session of the House commerce committee, after which committee chair Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis said everyone agreed in principle with the measure.
The Disy MP stressed that the ‘basket’ is not designed to tackle inflation per se, but rather to enhance transparency and therefore competition in the market.
“Under no circumstances does it have anything to do with direct or indirect intervention in the operation of the market,” he said.
“That is why we welcome this policy. With or without inflation, we need to have these tools in place.”
Boosting transparency, he added, would act as an incentive for retailers to exercise “self-control” and also “discourage behaviours which lead to exploitation, profiteering and unjustified prices to the detriment of consumers.”
The legislator said there was not enough time to take the government bill to the plenum before the Christmas holiday recess. Discussion will resume next year.
“I think that by March we will approve it.”
For his part, Akel’s Costa Costa said his party supports the idea, provided it is done correctly.
“What people want in these tough times, when they struggle to make a living, are substantive measures, not half-measures that come on the eve of elections,” he remarked.
The Akel MP recalled that back in 2011, when fuel prices rose sharply, milk and bread producers lobbied parliament for higher prices for their products.
“And so the prices went up. Later, crude oil fell from 140 dollars a barrel to 25 dollars. But bread and milk prices did not likewise drop. Where is the consumer protection service to check for profiteering, a phenomenon that has peaked lately with the crisis and war in Ukraine?”
And according to Costa, the recent rollout of a ‘household basket’ in neighbouring Greece has not met with success.
“We have to say there are serious complaints from consumer advocacy groups there,” he said.
Earlier this month Greece launched a ‘household basket’ of lower-priced staple goods. Under an agreement with the government, the country’s major supermarket chains will offer at least 51 essential goods at lower prices.
Updated on a weekly basis, the ‘basket’ includes everything from bread, flour, eggs, meat, fish, spaghetti, beverages, dairy products, toilet paper and baby formula to pet food.
The prices of products included in the ‘basket’ should be lower than those off the list. Listed products carry a special mark so that customers can easily identify them.
In October the annualised inflation rate in Cyprus stood at 8.6 per cent. Prices rose at a faster pace for food & non-alcoholic beverages – 13.16 per cent versus 7.69 per cent in September.