March 18, 2020
coronavirus

Economy Minister on price speculation involving basic goods: “We are already taking every legal measure to avoid abuses.”

Economy Minister on price speculation involving basic goods: “We are already taking every legal measure to avoid abuses.”
The Minister explained that “it is possible to set prices under a State of Constitutional Exception, but its duration will only be as long as that of the State of Constitutional Exception.” In regard to the closure of malls and other businesses, he said that “the organization that has the legal authority to close a commercial center is the Public Health Institute, delegated by the President.”

Economy, Development and Tourism Minister Lucas Palacios gave an interview on T13 radio to explain the mechanisms that the government is using to avoid price speculation for basic items in connection with the Coronavirus situation.

The Minister said, “we are already taking every legal measure to avoid abuses and price speculation. There is no doubt about that. And we are not ruling out any option available to the government to ensure that people have the products they need and can purchase them at a fair and reasonable price.”

In addition, he reported that the National Consumer Service, Sernac, is developing a study of products such as hand sanitizer, masks and toilet paper to determine their price variation. The Minister called on the public to use official channels to report irregularities in the market.  “Through Sernac, we have already provided all pharmacies with a list of 12 products that have been identified internationally as the most important for addressing the health issue. Yesterday I met with the supermarket associations, which represent 80% of food and cleaning product sales to the public, for the same purpose. In other words, we are monitoring and reviewing what is happening with the prices of those products on a daily basis,” the minister said.

In regard to setting prices, the Minister stated, “prices can be set under a State of Constitutional Exception, but its duration will only be as long as that of the State of Constitutional Exception.” However, he warned that “when there starts to be excessive demand for certain products, the products run out. So we need production and distribution at fair prices to continue without abuses or speculation. This is not a 100-meter race, but a marathon. As a result, we need measures that can be maintained over time. We need producers to have the right incentives to continue to stock the stores.”

Closure of malls or other businesses

The Minister also took the opportunity to explain the protocols to be followed for the possible closure of malls or other businesses in case the Coronavirus situation merits such action.

“The President can delegate the legal authority to close a mall to the Public Health Institute,” the Economy Minister stated.

He also remarked that he met with the mayors of various municipalities to address the topic this morning. “I met with the Associations of Municipalities this morning to establish the best strategies to be implemented in a coordinated manner. If we begin to act in a uncoordinated fashion, with one municipality defining one thing and another defining another thing, we will generate a movement of people from one sector to another, and that is not positive either,” the official stated.