Contractors in Antigua may soon see some reprieve in the woes facing the construction industry in terms of the fluctuating price of cement on the island.
In an interview with the Antigua Sun, Trade Co-ordinator Dr. Clarence Henry assured that the government was currently engaged in actively seeking new or additional suppliers of the product. He also revealed that he was currently in contact with a particular supplier and that within a month or so would be able to procure additional supplies of cement.
The achievement of this he believes is likely to drive down the current retail price of $19 per bag. Dr. Henry explained that some time ago when there was a scarcity of the product which resulted in it being retailed at $20 and $25 per bag, the government stepped in to seek a regular supply as well as a reduction in the price.
However, according to him, the special arrangement with TCL which saw the island receiving a special price on the product was for a duration of six months only. This period has since expired with TCL now communicating that it could not renew the arrangements because of increases to global fuel prices.
“Antigua & Barbuda was the only country in the OECS being granted a special price structure from TCL and of course we were also enjoying regular shipment of cement from TCL,” he pointed out.
According to him TCL’s financial inability to grant a continuation of the special privileges resulted in an increase in the wholesale price and therefore retail price of the product. He, however, noted that Government has moved to put in place a waiver of the custom service tax on the importation of cement in order to reduce the price which at present would have perhaps reached $22 per bag.
“The agreed figure is $19 a bag. That is what is to be retailed across A&B, so certainly we are conscious, that there is a minor increase in the price of cement. …We are conscious that the construction sector is a robust sector and we are desirous of having it continue to thrive and grow,” he said.
Dr. Henry further pointed to the importance of the construction sector to all members within the OECS noting that a meeting of trade ministers was called on Friday in St. Lucia to discuss the way forward in terms of cement supply within the OECS
“This matter came up at the last heads of government meeting and we are of the opinion that as we go forward, there might be several things that can be done, one of which may be the declassification of cement from the list of items ineligible for duty exemption” he added.
He noted that Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, as chairman of the OECS called for last Friday’s meeting given the importance of the industry within the territories and the need to ensure that the sector won’t be affected given the construction phase Cricket World Cup 2007 has ushered in.