Mauritius: An application that would better inform consumers, enable them to compare prices of some 100 products across different supermarkets and, consequently, make more informed buying choices would be launched in January 2023.
This was announced by the Minister of Labour, Human Resource Development and Training, Minister of Commerce and Consumer Protection, Mr Soodesh Callichurn, yesterday, during a press conference, in Port Louis, on the achievements, for the year 2022 of the various departments falling under his purview.
The Minister was of the view that the new application would bring more competition and favour consumers.
He stressed that at the consumers’ level, the year 2022 had been marred by economic challenges due to escalating cost of imports, but that the Government took decisive steps to counter rising inflation and to give some breathing room to the population.
These steps included the fixing of a maximum price for a series of products, the placement of essential products under the mark-up regime, and the provision of subsidies on these products with a view to compensating the loss in revenue to those who sell the goods to retailers.
“A subsidy of some Rs 1.3 billion had been disbursed by Government, and 371 different brands of commodities were fixed under the Consumer Protection (Maximum Price of Essential Goods) Regulations,” said Mr Callychurn.
He highlighted the Government’s efforts to assist the population in purchasing flour, edible oil, rice and household liquefied petroleum gas despite their high prices, as well as the grant paid by the Mauritius Revenue Authority to bakeries to compensate for the rise in the cost of production and maintain the current price of bread.
Moreover, Mr Callichurn recalled the re-establishment of the former Price Observatory in order to provide the public greater visibility on prices of essential products for more informed buying.
He talked as well about the decision to enable the State Trading Corporation (STC) to import certain essential products in order to reduce importation costs, stabilise retail prices and make the product more accessible and affordable to the general public.
The Minister informed that in a bid to bring in more revenue, the STC would diversify its activities and explore possibilities, such as in the bunkering sector.
Observing that the freight rate had been declining for some time, the Minister said that there would be an assessment review to understand why the lowering costs were not reflected in the prices on shelves. He moreover warned retail shops and supermarkets against using the rise in electricity tariff scheduled next year to raise prices abusively.
Labour, Human Resource Development and Training
On the labour front, the Minister remarked that the unemployment rate dropped from 10.4% in 2020 to 8.1% currently and that enterprises, mainly in the hospitality sector, had difficulties in recruiting and filling vacancies.
According to Mr Callychurn, the measures taken by the Government to offset the risks of high unemployment following the COVID-19 pandemic paid off.
These measures consisted of the reskilling programme for those who lost their jobs with the payment of a stipend of Rs 10,275 and amendments to the Workers’ Rights Act to hinder enterprises benefitting from Government subsidies from laying off employees.
He also spoke of the Wages Relativity Adjustment covering 17 sectors with a view to restoring the distortion in wage relativity resulting from the implementation of the National Minimum Wage in 2018.
Other amendments to laws and regulations to protect workers’ rights that were introduced in 2022 were mentioned. Among featured the right for an employee to be reinstated and preventing an employer from dismissing an employee on the grounds of bad performance after the latter had been injured at his place of work.
Furthermore, the Minister indicated that in 2023, the National Remuneration Board would be reviewing the salary and working conditions in several sectors, like the hospitality industry.
He added that the next review of the National Minimum Wage by the National Wage Consultative Council would be due in 2024.
He apprised too of the necessity of conducting research on the establishment of a salary scale that would take into consideration years of service.
As regards training, the Minister reiterated the importance of vocational education in equipping the local workforce, in particular young people, with the necessary knowledge, and skills to respond to the high demand for tradesmen.
Underlining the various incentives set up by Government to encourage young people to follow Technical and Vocational Education, such as free training and payment of the monthly stipend, Mr Callychurn called on the youth to avail of these opportunities.