50 years ago: Chamber of Commerce discusses cost of living

This week in Cayman

In the Dec. 6, 1967 edition of the Caymanian Weekly, a precursor of the Cayman Compass, the following story appeared:

“At its meeting on the Nov. 30, 1967, the Chamber of Commerce [discussed the situation caused by the devaluation of sterling]. During the discussion, mainly regarding the steep and rapid rise in the cost of living resulting from the mark up on items in the stores, Mr. Sherwood produced evidence of the difference in price of one particular item in different stores and he was supported by Dr. Parrish, who instanced candies 2 1/2d to 6d – 140%; meat 5%; and U.K. cigarettes 25%.

“Capt. Theo Bodden countered this with an example of an item on which he made a profit at £142 which was now £149 landed cost. Mrs. Veta Bodden mentioned a banker’s draft for Italian shoes valued at £439.10.0 for which she had to pay £512.17.11, i.e., an increase of £73.7.6 or 16 2/3%. She also read a letter from a supplier notifying a 1/6th increase on all present levels. She contended that all merchandise was paid for on draft, within 190 days and therefore three-quarters of a shipment would be sold before it is paid for.

“Mrs. Norberg Thompson felt the matter was bound to find its own level as the merchants marketing goods at the lower price would gain all the trade and others would have to reduce their prices in order to compete and stay in business.

“The Secretary asked if the Chamber proposed to take any action with regard to public criticism that its action had precipitated the wage increase demands.

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“Capt. Theo Bodden did not feel the Chamber had any authority to dictate to merchants what percentage they should put on their goods.

“Capt. Eldon Kirkconnell was the only merchant present who in any way admitted that some mistakes may have been made. He said, ‘Perhaps we merchants did act a little quickly. We may have been a bit hasty but something had to be done eventually and the Chamber did get the businessmen to try and do something. Looking back and seeing mistakes is easier than looking forwards and anticipating what might result from one’s actions and the longest the 1d in the 1/- rise could have survived would have been one week. We should, therefore, learn from this experience so that we do not make similar mistakes in the future.’

“To Mr. Cardinall DaCosta’s question, ‘Would the members be broadminded enough to recommend to government that there is a need for price control?’ Mr. Walker’s reply was that he felt such an action would be an admission of defeat, as one reason for having a Chamber of Commerce is to control business in a reasonable manner without running to government. They should try and overcome the crisis themselves and only if they prove incapable of doing this should government be asked to step in. He admitted however that they had not shown up too well in this crisis.”

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