Bodden Town MLA Osbourne Bodden has suggested the country enact antitrust laws, also known as competition laws, to help curtail the high cost of living.
Speaking during his contribution to the Budget debate on Wednesday, Mr. Bodden said bank interest rates and fuel costs were two of the four major culprits causing the high cost of living in the Cayman Islands.
Mr. Bodden said the government should talk to the banks to encourage them to lower their mortgage rates. But he did not hold up much hope that would work.
‘For rates to come in lower… we probably need to pass some antitrust legislation to avoid some of the collusion between the banks and fuel companies.
‘It’s the only way I see it happening.’
Mr. Bodden was reminded of the slogan on television for a lending organisation.
‘When banks compete, you win,’ he said.
Most countries in the Western world have antitrust laws or competition laws exist. In Cayman, the Information and Communications Technology Authority Law has some provisions designed to prevent anti-competitive practices, but there are not specific antitrust laws governing commerce.
Speaking on Thursday outside of the House, Mr. Bodden said he did not know why Cayman did not have antitrust laws.
‘That’s a good question,’ he said. ‘I have found that when it comes to the legislation in this country, the legal framework has been set up for the benefit of a few.’
The situation with the banks is most concerning to Mr. Bodden.
‘There is blatant collusion [between the banks],’ he said. ‘They don’t even try to hide it.
‘We seriously have to consider [antitrust legislation].’
On the topic of fuel companies here, Mr. Bodden said there seemed to be some sort of collusion going on.
Consultants have recently completed a report on the situation with the fuel companies, the findings of which haven’t been made public yet. But Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts stated in his Budget policy statement on 27 April that the findings of the report require the government to meet with the bulk fuel distributors.
‘We found that their mark-up here is a lot higher than everywhere else,’ Mr. Bodden said.
During his debate contribution, Mr. Bodden also cited insurance rates and electricity prices as the other two major culprits of the high cost of living.
‘I don’t know what we can do but sit down and talk with the insurance companies, but something needs to be done,’ he said.
With regard to electricity costs, Mr. Bodden noted that the current high costs are an extrapolation of the cost of fuel. CUC passes on fuel costs over a certain level to the consumer.
Mr. Bodden also called on all businesses to charge fair prices.
‘There are some businesses out there providing services and charging three times what something is worth,’ he said, adding that a ‘get rich quick’ mentality had taken hold.
‘You should treat the community you’re a part of in fair manner and good will still come to your business,’ he said.
Mr. Bodden called on individuals to do their part in limiting consumption.
‘Can each of us do with a little less?’ he asked. ‘Can we have one cell phone instead of two? Can we have a smaller car? Can we have one satellite dish instead of two? Can we have a smaller boat?
‘Maybe we could ask ourselves, ‘do we really need all that we proclaim we need to spend money on when we really could do with less’?’