Muscat: Effective immediately, the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP) will be authorised to control the price of only 23 products while the price of other commodities will be guided by the market forces.
But any proposed hike in the price of even these 23 products will necessitate the approval of the Cabinet Council. As per the No 12/2011 law, the price rise in case of any commodity was under the jurisdiction of the PACP.
The decision was approved by the Cabinet Council in its meeting No 7/2014, held on March 4, 2014.
The products that will fall within the purview of the PACP include rice, flour, oil, ghee, sugar, salt, tea, coffee, lentils, kidney beans, broad beans, chickpeas, mash, tomato sauce, toothpaste, laundry soap, fresh and frozen meat, fresh and frozen fish, fresh and frozen chicken, condensed milk, powdered milk, and dairy products including fresh milk, cheese and butter.
"Many traders and suppliers were unhappy with this rule. They felt the pressure of being unable to raise the prices of commodities where it was justified.
"Factors like Omanisation and high rents added to the expenses, but they could not hike prices to compensate for such expenses. The amendment could be a result of the concerns raised by traders and suppliers," said a source from the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI).
The Food Security Committee, in coordination with the competent authorities, is likely to review the listed commodities on an annual basis, and propose price change to the cabinet, whenever necessary. "The products that have not been included in the list will be subject to the principle of supply and demand in market," said the source. He said that the decision is fair because determining market prices through supply and demand is the basic building block of economics.
"Consumer preference for a product should determine how much of it they will buy, at any given price," he added.
Meanwhile, some experts feel that the non-listed products may be open to unjustified price rise as there would be no control on the decision of traders and suppliers, to price the product.
Meanwhile, the PACP has directed its directorates in governorates to follow the decision of the Cabinet Council, and to monitor the prices of the listed commodities. The PACP also called its departments to ensure good health and safety of the consumers, and monitor the quality of commodities offered to them.
Ali Abdullah, a private sector employee, said, "We do not understand the logic of the decision. More products should have been placed under the purview of the PACP. For instance, many vegetables are missing."
He added that the consumers will be at the mercy of the traders and suppliers. "In case of a price rise, it is unclear as to whom the consumers should approach to lodge a complaint," said Ali.
In 2011, the OCCI had authorised a study on the economic effects of government intervention in determining the prices of goods and services.
The study found that controlling prices of commodities in the local market is a breach of the principles of a free economy, and that price controls prove non-beneficial to both, buyers and sellers.
The study pointed out several negative effects of price control including ignoring the supply and demand principle, discouraging the spirit of innovation, affecting the production quality, increasing import of inferior goods, and encouraging black market practices.
"The decision to include only 23 products under the purview of PACP is a result of this study,"
said a source.
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