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Replies to Parliament Questions

Replies to Parliamentary Questions
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Oral Answers to Questions - 26 March 2013​
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr A. Ganoo) (by Private Notice) asked the Ministry of
Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection whether, in regard to Mogas and Gasoil, he will, for the benefit of the House, obtain from the State Trading Corporation, information as to –
 
(a) the reasons for the recent price increase thereof; and
 
(b) the amount –
 
(i) collected in terms of excise duty, Value Added Tax, Maurice Ile Durable Levy, Road Development Authority contribution and subsidy for Liquefied Petroleum Gas, flour and rice for 2011, 2012 and estimated for 2013, indicating if Government will consider reviewing the various components of the price structure thereof to bring down the price;
 
(ii) paid to Betamax Ltd. by the Corporation as at to date, indicating how the freight rates have been determined;
 
(iii) of profits made by the Corporation on the sale of aviation fuel and bunkering for 2011, 2012 and estimated for 2013, and
 
(iv) of hedging losses, including the amount of interest paid on the insurance cover.
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir, as regards part (a) of the question, I wish to inform the House as follows: The retail prices of Mogas and Gasoil have remained unchanged since end March 2011, that is, for nearly two years. The House may know that a new Petrol Pricing Mechanism (PPM) to fix the retail prices of Mogas and Gasoil was introduced in January 2011 to replace the Automatic Pricing Mechanism and to ensure that the prices will not change every month but only when rendered absolutely necessary as a result of significant changes in price trends on the world market. The key objectives of the new mechanism are, inter alia -
 
to mitigate, if not nullify, the effects of world price fluctuations on retail prices;
 
to ensure that monthly price shocks on commodities crucial to the conduct of economic and social activities be avoided if at all possible, and
 
to achieve a reasonable longer-term planning of all economic activities as well as of the family budget. These objectives, Mr Speaker, Sir, have by now been largely attained as the retail prices for Mogas and Gasoil have seen no change from 30 March 2011 until 01 March this year, that is, over a period of nearly two years in spite of the fact that oil prices on the world market have increased significantly by around 40%. In fact, the average Platts price of Mogas has increased from USD 729 per metric ton in 2010 to USD 1021 in 2012 which represents an increase of 40%. With regard to Gasoil, the average price per barrel has increased from USD 88 in 2010 to USD 126 in 2012, which represents an increase of 43%.
 
A point had been reached, Mr Speaker, Sir, where the Price Stabilization Account could no longer sustain the soaring oil prices on the world market. With a new reference price by 01 March 2013 of USD 1073.45 per metric ton for Mogas and that of USD 131.24 per barrel for Gasoil, the retail prices should have increased at that date as follows -
 
Mogas: From Rs49.30 to Rs53.70 per litre, that is, an increase of 8.92%.
 
Gasoil: From Rs41.20 to Rs45.10 per litre, that is, an increase of 9.47%.
 
However, to mitigate the impact of such a price rise, Government decided to waive entirely the current applicable hedging charges of Rs1.25 per litre for Mogas and Re 1.00 per litre for Gasoil.
 
With this measure, retail prices of Mogas and Gasoil came to Rs52.25 (5.98% increase) and Rs43.95 (6.67% increase) respectively per litre. I must add that, Mr Speaker, Sir, as at 31 December 2012, the deficit in the Price Stabilization Account for Mogas and Gasoil stood at Rs111.3 m. and Rs109.9 m. respectively. The estimated deficit as at 28 February 2013 would have been Rs156 m for Mogas and Rs161.7 25 m for Gasoil, that is, a total of Rs317 m. in February 2013 as compared with Rs221 m. at December 2012. I said estimate, Mr Speaker, Sir. We have to note that the estimate is for vessels which arrived in January and February and for which payments are effected in March and April this year. As regards part (b)(i) of the question, I am informed by the State Trading Corporation as follows –
Excise Duty
2011
2012
2013
 
Rs Million
Rs Million
Rs Million
Mogas
1727
1804
1825
Gas oil
  823
  830
  878
Total
2550
2634
2703
 
   
Value Added Tax (VAT)
2011
2012
2013* (Estimated)
 
Rs Million
Rs Million
Rs Million
Mogas
    952
    999
 1102
Gas oil
  1238
  1242
 1470
Total
  2190
  2241
 2592
 
 
MID levy (2011-2013)
I must point out that this levy was introduced in 2008.
 
MID Levy
2011
2012
2013* (Estimated)
 
Rs Million
Rs Million
Rs Million
Mogas
48
50
51
Gas oil
76
75
80
Total
124
125
131
 
 
Contribution to the Road Development Authority
That is inclusive of Bus Companies’ Recovery Account (BCRA).
 
Contribution to the Road Development Authority
That is inclusive of Bus Companies’ Recovery Account (BCRA).
2011
2012
2013* 9Estimated)
 
Rs Million
Rs Million
Rs Million
Mogas
296
309
313
Gas oil
443
447
465
Total
739
756
778
 
 
 
Contribution to subsidy for Liquefied Petroleum Gas, Flour and Rice (2011-2013)
 
 
Contribution to Subsidy
2011
2012
2013* (Estimated)
 
Rs Million
Rs Million
Rs Million
Mogas
237
251
254
Gas oil
376
383
399
Total
613
634
653
 
I must point out, Mr Speaker, Sir, that on top of taxes collected from the sale of Mogas and Gas Oil in the price structure for subsidies, the State Trading Corporation also generated revenues through international sale of aviation and marine bunker fuel and this is used, of course, to partly subsidise Liquefied Petroleum Gas, flour and rice. I wish to add that in 2011 subsidies total rice, flour and LPG amounted as follows –
 
Subsidy 2011 2012 2013*
 
Subsidy
2011
2012
2013* (Estimated)
 
Rs Million
Rs Million
Rs Million
Total
1167
1157
1475
 
Mr Speaker, Sir, as regards part (b) (ii) of the question, I am advised as follows -
Freight is determined by an aggregate amount of USD17,6 m. in any contract year in which the vessel normally undertakes 16 round trips giving an average freight per ton of USD 17.10. To this is added a Bunker Adjustment Factor (BAF), which is based on the world price of Fuel Oil 180cc or Gasoil 2500 ppm sulphur, which are the components of bunker utilised. The port dues at the loading and unloading ports are also on account of the STC. For example, for the voyage of 12 January 2013 (this is the arrival date), which is a fairly typical voyage, the total freight paid was Rs54,558,884 for a consignment of 60,170 tons, equivalent to 70,246,000 litres, in other words, 78 cents per litre, which represents 1.49% of the retail price of Mogas. The cumulative amount paid to Betamax from August 2010 to March 2013 is Rs2,472 billion. Mr Speaker, Sir, with regard to part  (b) (iii) of the question, I am advised that the profits made by the State Trading Corporation on the sale of aviation fuel and bunkering for 2011 and 2012 and estimated for 2013 are as follows –
 
Surplus on Aviation and Bunker Fuel 2011 2012 2013*
 
 
2011
2012
2013* (Estimated)
 
Rs Million
Rs Million
Rs Million
Aviation fuel
154
269
310
Bunker fuel
175
232
243
Total
329
501
553
 
With regard to part (b) (iv) of the question, Mr Speaker, Sir, I wish to inform the House that this matter has been raised on several occasions in the National Assembly and this information has already been given to the House. I am informed by the STC that hedging losses amounted to Rs4,739 billion in July 2009. The interest paid on lines of credit used to repay the hedging losses amounted to Rs237 m. I thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir.
 
Mr Ganoo: I thank the hon. Minister, Mr Speaker, Sir. I come to part (a) of the question,
the reasons for the recent price increase. Since the hon. Minister himself made mention of the reference price, does he agree that the reference price used for the calculation of the retail price of mogas as per the State Trading Corporation website itself is at present USD1073.45 per metric tonne and same was in march 2011, USD960.07 per metric tonne which represents an increase of 12% with regard to the reference price, as compared from 2011 to 2013. In the case of gasoil, the present reference price is USD131 per barrel, as mentioned, I think, by the hon. Minister, and there has been a similar increase in the case of gasoil from 9% to 12% from 2011 to 2013? Does he agree with that?
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am concerned about the fluctuations of retail
prices with regard to reference prices. I have a table here showing the evolution of daily Platts prices since 01 March. We started on 01 March with mogas at 1,013 and we were yesterday, 25 of March, at USD1,005 per metric ton. On 18 March, the price had reached 1,023 which is the highest over the past 25 days. For gasoil, on 01 of March, it was 123.91 per barrel and yesterday it was 118.14 per barrel, the highest price having been reached on 06 March USD124 per barrel. On the basis of this, Mr Speaker, Sir, irrespective of the different fluctuations day by day, we made what we should call a theoretical calculation. If, for example, the Petroleum Pricing Committee were to meet yesterday or today on the basis of the recent prices, of course, we have not calculated the average six months past and six months future. We have taken an average. If the PPC had met yesterday or today, the new…
 
Mr Ganoo: I am sorry, Mr Speaker, Sir, my question was very factual. I have two documents emanating from the STC which confirm what I am saying, that is, in March 2011, the reference price was 960.07 and in March 2013, the reference price, as the hon. Minister just said, was 1.073.4 which amounts to an increase of 12% in terms of reference price for increase of the Mogas. In the case of gas oil also the reference price was 120.57 per barrel in 2011 and now it is 131.24 as per the two documents of the STC, which represents an increase in the case of diesel of 9%.
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: I get the point of the hon. Leader of the Opposition. Actually, I think it would be misleading with due respect to the hon. Leader of the Opposition. If we just take a figure from 2010 or 2011 and compare it with the latest figure, this ignores the fact that, during the period between the initial date and the last date, there are fluctuations, and there have been fluctuations. I gave the figures a few minutes ago as to what was the situation on 01 March this year. Indeed, prices have started going down from 01 March as compared to the situation at end February and this is the point I was trying to make, Mr Speaker, Sir, that, if the PPC were to meet and calculate the prices on the basis of yesterday’s prices, there would be, in the calculation, a drop of an average of 1%. It would be 1.05% for Mogas lower and 1.02% for gas oil which is insignificant technically speaking because the regulation that governs the fixing of prices by PPC stipulates that the fluctuations have to be to a certain extent before the PPC recommends a change in prices. I agree with the point of the hon. Leader of the Opposition, but I just want to say that in-between there are major fluctuations.
 
Mr Ganoo: Having agreed with me in terms of the reference price which is used to determine the retail price, is the hon. Minister aware that the increase on the world market for Mogas and gas oil - he has talked about that in his reply and I have the documents with me – has been, in the case of Mogas, to the tune of 7%, and in the case of gas oil, diesel, to the tune of 0.8%. Therefore, this reference price used by the STC, in fact, is a wrong reference price. It is to fleece the population. This reference price has increased by 12% and 9% respectively, as I said earlier. I repeat my question for the hon. Minister to understand my point. On the world market, I have a document with me to the effect that in terms of Platts, la différence entre 2011 et 2013 for Mogas has been an increase of 7% and in the case of diesel the increase has been from 124.12 per barrel to 125.17 per barrel, representing .8% increase in the case of diesel. This is an official document.
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir, the hon. Leader of the Opposition does not seem to understand or pretends not to understand my point.
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Order!
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: It is very easy to take one point in time, March 2011, and to compare with the latest figure. If, for example, tomorrow in the US there is a huge discovery of shale gas or whatever and prices go down, then the hon. Leader of the Opposition will come and tell us prices have gone down from March 2011 …
(Interruptions)
No, the Leader of the Opposition is not speaking about average, he is comparing point to point. March 2011 to now the drop has been like that. But, Mr Speaker, Sir, what happened in the meantime? A more relevant presentation given to the hon. Leader of the Opposition or a relevant analysis should consider the whole continuum of changes which happened between March 2011 and now. If the hon. Leader of the Opposition were right, how come that the price stabilisation account - this is not a fund, Mr Speaker, Sir, it is an account, c’est un jeu d’écriture - from December 2012 at end February 2013, over a period of two months, jumped from Rs221 m. by almost 50% to reach Rs370 m.? It is because there have been effective physical changes in prices. We should look at the continuum of changes, the fluctuations, not point to point comparisons.
 
Mr Ganoo: If the STC had increased the price of Mogas and gas oil according to the rate which I just highlighted - I mean the rate that they have increased on the world market according to Platts - the Mauritian consumers would have paid less in case of Mogas and diesel; in fact by Rs170 m. and Rs580 m. respectively, if the Platts price had been used.
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: The hon. Leader of the Opposition is certainly wrong, Mr Speaker, Sir. The calculations and the recommendations of the Petroleum Pricing Committee are governed by the Consumer Protection (Price and Supplies Control) Act (Government Notice No. 9 of 2011), and there are procedures that are set in the law on how to calculate the reference price and how we move from the reference price to the established retail prices sold in the filling stations. This is very simple. There is no manipulation. My Ministry does not intervene in that, the State Trading Corporation does not intervene in that. By law, it is the PPC that looks at reference prices. Of course, figures are provided by the STC, but these are actual figures; these are not cooked up figures as the hon. Leader of the Opposition seems to say.
 
Mr Ganoo: I come to this methodology which the Minister is referring to. I agree with him that there are regulations which determine these calculations. But is the hon. Minister aware that this method of computing the retail price, the use of an average based on six months previous to the month in question and six months ahead based on the Platts forward price plus 4% risk to cater for fluctuation and so on; this methodology of determining the reference price is unfair; it does not reflect the real market value to the consumer and we are one of the rare countries which are still using …
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Order!
 
Mr Ganoo: We are one of the rare countries using this methodology, using the futures as they call it, six months ahead, and the Minister should revisit, because it brings injustice to the consumers.
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Order!
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir …
 
Mr Speaker: I want some order!
(Interruptions)
I repeat myself, I want some order! I will not give any warning, I will take action.
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir, maybe I should remind the hon. Leader of the
Opposition that his new friends were in Government …
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: The hon. Minister should just answer the question.
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Well, his assessment is a matter of opinion. I am not here to comment on opinions, Mr Speaker, Sir.
 
Mr Ganoo: Can the hon. Minister, since he has given us a lot of figures, tell us in terms of VAT, what is the additional amount that now Government will make in view of the increase in the price of these commodities? Can he give us the additional amount of VAT which will go in the coffers of the STC or the State now?
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Well, VAT does not go into the coffers of the STC, we know that, everybody knows that! A simple calculation: 2012: Rs2.241 billion; 2013 estimated Rs2.592 billion; the difference is around Rs351 m.
 
Mr Ganoo: Does the hon. Minister think that in this very harsh and depressed economic situation which the country is going through, it was warranted to further tax Mauritians of R351 m. and in the case of the RDA contribution, given the increase in road tax, the increase that the motorists are being made to suffer in the recent past and the forthcoming implementation of the toll road; why should consumers and motorists be made to pay another Rs1 billion in addition to the Rs351 m. of TVA?
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Silence!
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: It is ironical, Mr Speaker, Sir, that the question should come from a side of Parliament which decided a few years ago to increase VAT by 50% in one year!
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Ganoo: Before I come to the element of the price structure which is posted on the website of the STC: ‘Oil Companies Operational Expenses and Wholesale Margin’, is the hon. Minister aware that this is a component in the price structure and, in this case, Mr Speaker, Sir, the price structure regarding the oil companies or oil majors, if we can call them les barons of these products? In this case in the case of mogas there has been an increase in their favour to the tune of 24% and in the case of diesel, 18%. This is what they have received. And this in times of sluggish growth! This unprecedented increase, Mr Speaker, Sir, will bring an additional sum of Rs115 m. in the coffers of the old majors, of the barons of the petroleum products.
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir, ....
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Please, order! Allow the hon. Minister to answer!
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir, petroleum does not flow from the ship that brings it to Mauritius into the tanks of cars and buses and motorcycles. There is a process. The petroleum products come in, they have to be stored, managed and distributed. The oil companies, if the hon. Leader of the Opposition decides or chooses to call them barons, I would advise him that there are some other barons who benefited from Rs8 billion ....
(Interruptions) Rs8 billion of cadeaux from them...(Interruptions) But let me explain....
(Interruptions) Let me explain.... (Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Silence!
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Let me explain...
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: I said order!
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: In 2006, Mr Speaker, Sir, there was a marginal increase in the cost of operations of the oil companies. In 2008 there was another marginal increase. From 2008 to 2013, five years have elapsed, and of course, the oil companies - as any economic agent in this country - provide services and add value to the industry. The compounded inflation from 2008 to 2013 has been calculated at 18 point something cents per litre. Everybody knows, Mr Speaker, Sir, that if we do not act quickly we will be running out of storage capacity for petroleum products soon. Instead of the State Trading Corporation spending public funds to invest around Rs700 m. in storage tanks, the oil companies have given the undertaking that they will build storage starting with 15,000 tonnes to be increased gradually up to 25,000 tonnes within the next five years. The ten cents average supplementary (18 +10 average of 28) will be to help them over a period of 20 years to finance the building of storage tanks....
(Interruptions)
…which otherwise the State Trading Corporation would have been obliged to do.
 
Mr Ganoo: The hon. Minister seems to be sympathising with these oil majors and he seems to be very sorry for them. But, is he aware - I will give him one example - in the case of Vivo Energy which has just published its profit on its website, this company has made R324 m. just recently...
(Interruptions)
And does not the hon. Minister think that it would have been fairer to allocate part of this massive windfall to the propriétaires de filling who went on strike and closed down on Monday? These propriétaires de filling have not received any increase in the last exercise.... (Interruptions) And this would have been a proof of the Government’s pledge to democratise l’economie!
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Time is over, but I will allow only two more questions! Hon. Bhagwan!
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I reply to that question which is actually about me sympathising with the barons of the petroleum industry. They should know better about barons... (Interruptions) They should know that. But, let me tell you... (Interruptions)
Les propriétaires de filling, as the hon. Leader of the Opposition …. (Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: I am not saying
 
Mr Speaker: Hon. Bhagwan!
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Je ne veux pas dire qu’ils roulent sur l’or mais en 2008, M. le président, les retail filling stations ont bénéficié d’un supplément de 46 sous par litre, ce qui équivalait à 45% d’augmentation dans leur marge. Cela ne s’est jamais vu. 45% d’augmentation en 2008, on verra à l’avenir ce qu’on peut faire mais pour le moment, I think that what we have done is rational… (Interruptions) It is easy when you sit in the Opposition to criticise profit and companies… (Interruptions) But, they should tell… (Interruptions)
They should tell to the banks that announced Rs3 billion profit what to do with that!
 
Mr Bhagwan: Mr Speaker, Sir, some time back, I mentioned the name of one person, the
President of the Association for the Protection of Environment and Consumers who is a well known person. The hon. Minister himself acknowledged that the person is in the office every day, Mr Tengur. This is what he had said – “La hausse des prix des carburants est injustifiée, depuis un certain temps déjà j’ai dit que Maurice est un pays où il y a beaucoup de taxes sur les produits pétroliers, il faut les enlever ».
Can the hon. Minister state whether he has received representations from Mr Tengur and the consumers to reduce the prices?
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Mr Speaker, Sir, Mr Tengur is the Director or the Chairman of a Consumer Protection Association as some other people. If they said that the increase in price of around 6% after two years was justified and reasonable, probably they would lose their jobs! So, they cannot say that. They have to criticise, I mean it is their job to criticise as it is the job of our hon. Members on the other side.
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Jugnauth: Replying to a question that I put in the past to the hon. Prime Minister, the Prime Minister said that an enquiry was underway since 2009 with regard to the hedging loss.
May I know whether the enquiry has been completed and whether responsibilities have been situated and if the hon. Minister can table a copy of that enquiry to the House?
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Being given that the hon. Member is referring to a question that he set to the hon. Prime Minister, can I invite him to come with a substantive Parliamentary Question to the Prime Minister?
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Last question to the Leader of the Opposition!
 
Mr Ganoo: Can I ask….
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Silence!
 
Mr Ganoo: Can I ask the hon. Minister one question from another part of my question concerning Betamax Ltd? Is the hon. Minister aware and can he today inform the House whether STC has undertaken to pay to Betamax Ltd. 100% of its freight capacity, meaning that even if STC makes use of the tanker or the tanker lays idle, the STC has to pay an aggregate freight capacity which amounts to USD17.6 m. per year, according to clause 6.58 of the contract and the daily freight capacity which the STC has to pay to Betamax Ltd. every day is USD48,000 daily that is about Rs1.5 m. daily!! (Interruptions) And this is very scandalously high rate three times the ongoing rate…
 
Mr Speaker: I have to remind the Leader of the Opposition (Interruptions)
I have to remind the Leader of the Opposition that he has the full right to put a question, but not to make a statement during Question Time.
(Interruptions)
However, the Minister will be given time to answer!
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: Thank you, Mr Speaker, Sir, I am very willing to reply to that.
 
Mr Speaker: But, the hon. Minister has to reply and answer a question put to him.
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: I will, Mr Speaker, Sir. I gave that figure of USD17.6 m. in my main reply. Let me come to the principle, Mr Speaker, Sir. Before using the services of Betamax we were having recourse to the services of two shipping companies, namely Pratibha Shipping and ST Shipping. One was …
(Interruptions)
Wait for my reply!
 
Mr Speaker: Answer the question please!
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: One was carrying …
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Silence!
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: One was carrying white oils, and the other one was carrying black oils. Pratibha Shipping used to cost us 68 cents per litre for carrying; that was four years ago. If we update that figure, taking into consideration the increase in the cost of bunker fuel, the change in US dollar, the rates, this would now amount to 70 cents per litre. ST Shipping used to cost us 0.65 cents per litre. Updated again, this would cost now 77 cents per litre. So, that would be an average of 74 cents per litre for carrying fuel from Mangalore to Mauritius, and this is exactly what the Red Eagle is costing us. There has been no increase or maybe a very marginal - I have not worked out the details - increase in the cost of carrying fuel.
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Time is over. Questions to the …
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Ganoo: Is the hon. Minister prepared to table a copy of the contract between STC and Betamax Ltd for the sake of transparency?
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: I am totally prepared to do that. This is a contract with a private party, and …
(Interruptions)
 
Mr Speaker: Order!
(Interruptions)
I said order!
 
Mr Sayed-Hossen: For the other contracting party, this is a commercially sensitive issue,
and we need the authority of the other party to make it public. We can’t do it unilaterally.
 
Mr Speaker: Time is over!
​ ​Debate No. 33 of 11.11.08
WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
PETROLEUM PRODUCTS – PRICE - DECREASE
  
Question (No. B/1249) Mr M. Allet (Third Member for Beau Bassin & Petite Rivière) asked the Minister of Consumer Protection & Citizens Charter whether, in regard to the decrease in the price of petroleum products, he will state the measures he proposes to take to ensure that such decrease is reflected in the price of other commodities.
Reply
Following the decrease in the price of petroleum products, my Ministry has implemented appropriate proactive measures to ensure that the decrease is ultimately passed on to consumers.

The House is already aware that the price of only 18 essential items is controlled by my Ministry. Among that list, the only item where there is a correlation with the price of petroleum products is bread. Given that the price of that commodity is fixed, an exercise will be undertaken to ascertain whether the percentage decrease in the price of petroleum products would have a significant incidence on the price of bread. As regards the price of non-controlled items, a price monitoring mechanism has been set up to undertake an in-depth survey of the prices and to analyse any fluctuation on the local market. Regular checks and inspections are being carried out by officers of the Consumer Protection Unit to that effect.

Furthermore, given that prices are determined by market forces, I have sought the collaboration of the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry to press on its members to practice a fair and reasonable mark-up on all goods which should reflect the real market price.

I have also appealed to them to publicise any reduction in prices, in the best interest of consumers. In that breadth, I have taken note that some importers have already advertised the reduction in price, which is indeed a positive signal.

Officers of my Ministry are presently undertaking site visits to collect
 relevant data on different commodities and, in the event of abusive mark-ups, all legal and administrative avenues would be explored to curb those abuses.
​ ​
​ ​DebateNo. 37 of 9.12.2008
WRITTEN ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
CONSUMER PROTECTION UNIT - VACANCIES
Question (No. B/1431) Mr R. Bhagwan (First Member for Beau Bassin & Petite Rivière) asked the Minister for Consumer Protection and Citizens Charter whether, in regard to the posts of Head of the Consumer Protection Unit and Consumer Protection Officers, he will state if there is any vacancy and, if so, indicate –
(a) since when;
(b) the number thereof, and
(c) the measures taken to have them filled, indicating if the Unions
have been informed accordingly.
Reply:
There are presently vacancies on the Establishment of the Consumer Protection Unit for one post of Head, Consumer Protection Unit and 14 posts of Consumer Protection Officer.

The post of Head, Consumer Protection Unit is vacant since 08 September 2003, whereas the 14 posts of Consumer Protection Officer have become vacant at different dates due to the retirement of some officers from the grade or for other reasons.

Financial provisions have been voted in the 2008-2009 Budget to fill six out of the fourteen vacancies in the grade of Consumer Protection Officer. As regards the post of Head, Consumer Protection Unit, provisions have been made in the budget approved for the Ministry of Consumer Protection and Citizens Charter in November 2008, following its setting up in September.

As soon as the Ministry was created, action has been initiated to expedite matters regarding the filling of the vacant posts of Consumer Protection Officer in respect of which financial provisions have been voted. In this context, amendments are being brought to the existing scheme of service of Consumer Protection Officer, following recommendations of the PRB Report. Consultations have been held with the staff side, and the Ministry of
 Civil Service and Administrative Reforms has been requested to take action for its prescription in that respect.

It is understood that consultations with trade unions will take place at the level of the Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reforms. Once the scheme of service is prescribed by Public Service Commission, my Ministry will take appropriate action for the filling of the vacancies in the grade of Consumer Protection Officer.

Insofar as the post of Head, Consumer Protection Unit is concerned, it became vacant on 08 September 2003, when the temporary incumbent took employment with the ICAC. An exercise was carried out by the Public Service Commission in October 2004 to fill the post but the offer which was made in March 2005, had to be withdrawn given that the selected candidate could not assume duty within the prescribed delay. Since then, the post has remained vacant, and the next seniormost officer in the grade of Principal Consumer Protection Officer has been assigned duties of Head, Consumer Protection Unit.

With the setting up of the Ministry, funds have been made available for filling the vacancy of Head, Consumer Protection Unit. Action is being initiated to that effect as I consider that it is difficult for the Unit to operate efficiently and effectively without a substantive Head, although I must point out that those who have acted in the capacity of Head, Consumer Protection Unit have done so to the best of their abilities
​ ​Sitting 18 of 2009 Tuesday 16 June 2009)CONSUMERS – RIGHTS - PROMOTION
(No. B/554) Mr S. Soodhun (Fifth Member for La Caverne and Phoenix) asked the Minister of Consumer Protection and Citizens Charter whether, in regard to the consumers, he will state the additional measures Government proposes to take to promote the protection of their rights.

Mr Tang Wah Hing:       Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, consumer protection is at the heart of each and every measure taken by the Government. One of the most important measures taken to protect consumers and safeguard their interests and rights is the creation of a Ministry for Consumer Protection and Citizens Charter.

In an era crippled with unfair trade practices which adversely affect consumers’ rights,
additional innovative measures and being implemented. These include –

(a) decentralisation of the Consumer Protection Unit with a view to providing a “service de proximité” to the public at large. The Consumer Protection Unit now offers decentralised services in four zones of the country in CAB offices, excluding Port Louis.

(b) work restructuring of the Consumer Protection Unit with effect from 01 June 2009. Henceforth, works of the Consumer Protection Unit will be undertaken on the basis of regions to ensure better follow-up and monitoring of all consumer matters falling within the respective regions.

(c) the setting up of a flying squad in January 2009 to handle complaints more effectively and to track down offenders in the shortest delay.

(d) the setting up of a price observatory is being seriously considered. The price observatory is an excellent mechanism through which consumers can be informed on the variables that go in the prices of goods. The price observatory would also detect possible cases of dumping of products on the local market.

(e) a complete review of the legislations in the field of consumer protection is being envisaged. Preliminary works have already been carried out by my Ministry and arrangements are being made with the Law Reforms Commission to undertake that task;

(f) Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, one of the fundamental rights of a consumer is the right to be informed. Consumer education is thus a vital component of my Ministry’s portfolio. Soon, a magazine will be published to give further impetus to consumer education. This magazine will be a regular feature of my Ministry’s activities;

(g) in order to enlarge the scope of consumer protection, the concept of a Citizen’s Charter is being reviewed and revitalized with a shift from the traditional serviceprovider driven approach to a service-user driven approach.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, these are only some of the measures being contemplated. As the business environment is dynamic and volatile, new measures will have to be considered as and when changes occur with the ultimate objective of protecting the consumers.

Mr Bhagwan: M. le président, je suis un peu perplexe. Since the setting up of this Ministry and, despite the promises and speeches, consumers are suffering more and prices have been shooting up daily. Can I know from the hon. Minister when, at least, the consumers will get concrete action and concrete measures? We don’t want speeches, promises or whatever. Not only we have a Ministry spending money, but we have no result.

Mr Tang Wah Hing: I just want to reply to the hon. Member. My Ministry is working. We are not making speeches or doing anything wrong.

(Interruptions)
The Deputy Speaker: Order, please!

Mr Tang Wah Hing: We are acting, but the hon. Member is doing because he is a politician. But we are working very hard in my Ministry.

Mr Soodhun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, will the hon. Minister agree with me that there is a decrease in prices and that a circulaire must be issued to all the supermarkets because most of the time they say they are not aware?

Mr Tang Wah Hing: I just want to let the hon. Member know that in the near future we are working on it and we are having very modern technology, that is, by SMS, e-mail and all these things to respond to the public.

Mr Bhagwan: I am a politician, Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I am here since 26 years. I know I will come again, Sir.

The Deputy Speaker: Will the hon. Member put the question, please?

Mr Bhagwan: I am proud to be a politician and I represent the public, I am paid from public fund. Can I know from the hon. Minister what is the price of a packet of kraft today?

The Deputy Speaker: That question is not allowed!

Mr Soodhun: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, I would like to ask the hon. Minister whether he is aware that the …
(Interruptions)

The Deputy Speaker: Order, please!

Mr Soodhun: …that are being issued from the big supermarket, in a lapse of one hour, all the articles disappeared. I can give the hon. Minister the proof.

Mr Tang Wah Hing: I think it is the work of a magician, but not ours.

Mr Lesjongard: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, may I ask the hon. Minister since he has resumed office, how many meetings he had had with the Association of Consumers of this country?

Mr Tang Wah Hing: We have many meetings, but we have only two consumers’ agencies that deal with the public.

Mr Dowarkasing: May I know from the hon. Minister what is the manpower that is being disposed at this Ministry? How many inspectors does he have? What is the manpower being composed of?

Mr Tang Wah Hing: The hon. Member should come with a substantive question.

(Interruptions)

The Deputy Speaker: If it is not a speech, but a question, it is allowed. Hon. Cuttaree!

Mr Cuttaree: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, there have been reports that the consumer associations are not getting their subsidies from Government. Can I know whether this is correct and, if so, what is the reason for which this payment to ACIM has been discontinued?

Mr Tang Wah Hing: Mr Deputy Speaker, Sir, funding of agencies does not concern my ministry
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