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Price monitoring ineffective, say consumers
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 11 - 02 - 2013

Saleh Al-Zahrani
Okaz/Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — Economists and consumers said they have not noticed any improvement in prices following the monitoring of markets and restaurants.
The Ministry of Commerce recently employed 500 market supervisors to monitor prices, and seize counterfeit products. However, this has not improved the situation. Some shops still trade in counterfeit products and near-expiry products.
Prices of goods are continuing to rise despite an actual decrease by the manufacturer.
Dr. Habeebullah Al-Turkistani, an economist, said despite the Commerce Ministry's assertion that it will combat unqualified increases in prices, the market supervisors do not have the authority to deal with the phenomenon.
He said profit margins for auto spare parts range from 200 to 400 percent, 100 percent markup for poultry, and more than 150 percent for meat.
He pointed out that the ministry sometimes justifies its lack of intervention to the free market conditions. However, its role should be to monitor, supervise and intervene as the case may require.
He called upon the municipalities to investigate the complaints by the public directed to their supervisors. They are accused of accepting monthly payments as bribes to overlook any violations.
Abdulrahman Al-Qarni, another economist, concurs that there is a need for more than 2,000 supervisors to effectively monitor the market.
He said the Ministry of Commerce has a huge budget, but it still complains of a lack of supervisors.
He also called for awareness campaigns to educate consumers of their rights, and believes that the current penalties are not enough to deter manipulators. He also emphasized the role of the customs authorities in limiting the imports of counterfeit products.

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