Do not undermine consumer rights: Gaweseb

29 Jan 2014 19:40pm
WINDHOEK, 29 JAN (NAMPA) - Government should refrain from signing agreements with countries that do not respect the rights of consumers in Namibia.
This was the view of Namibia Consumer Trust (NCT) Executive Director Michael Gaweseb during an interview with Nampa about food security and the high food prices in Namibia on Tuesday.
“It is important that before any trade and investment agreement or policy is adopted, it should be subjected to human rights assessments,” he said, adding that besides policies that pose a threat to adequate consumer protection in Namibia, Namibians also have a culture of not letting authorities know how their pockets are hurting.
“Consumers need to protect their rights by raising their voices even if it means peaceful street protests,” he said.
Namibia is a net importer of most of the food available in local supermarkets and grocery stores, and as a result, rising food prices in global markets are transmitted into Namibia automatically.
Namibians currently pay about N.dollars 45 for a 1.5 kilogramme packet of chicken while a litre of fresh milk costs about N.dollars 15. Just a few months ago, consumers paid N.dollars 35 for the same amount of chicken and N.dollars 11 for a litre of milk.
Gaweseb raised the concern that even if Namibia has measures in place which protect local poultry, dairy, pasta and maize producers, there are no mechanisms in place to prevent such “well-intended privileges of being abused”.
He claimed that continued infant industry protection is violating the Namibian Government’s obligation towards its citizens in terms of human rights, especially the right to food and nutrition.
The State is also biased in terms of providing resources for the private sector while for instance not providing the same support for consumer protection. Gaweseb said the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), Namibia Manufacturers Association, and Namibia Trade Forum are State financed, and yet there is a lack of such support for consumer interests.
Speaking about water and electricity prices, Gaweseb expressed the concern that consumers are not consulted when prices are set, and producers simply pass on the costs to consumers.
“The current prices are symptoms of fundamental or policy problems causing a lack of control by authorities of private sector players even when they are clearly abusing consumer rights. There is simply no redress for consumers and this in turn is caused by a lack of consumer protection laws,” he added.