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Laws are not suggestions

Notwithstanding the government’s unnecessary interference in the operations of businesses in the grocery and pharmacy sectors, the willingness of some in the sector to flout the law is not acceptable.

We have enough lawlessness in this country.

The business community is licensed and regulated by the government.

Businesses cannot expect to disobey the law then look to the organs of the state for relief when their customers do the same in their stores.

If a man walks into a grocery store and steals goods and is caught, the grocery store will call the police and expect the police and the state to prosecute the man.

How, then, can people be expected to abide by laws that are designed to prevent shoplifting when the stores they shop in do not abide by laws to control pricing?

The move by some grocers is indefensible and plays into the notion of many that our society is not a just one; that those without economic power are not protected and those with power are.

If there is no sense of fairness, the system collapses.

Every day, average citizens of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas are confronted by those who enforce the law and when found to be in breach, they are penalized.

That is how a country of laws works.

Prime Minister Philip Davis rightly asked grocers to respect the laws that are in place.

“We are a country of laws and the rule of law is still alive today as it was yesterday and I would expect those who understand the law to follow the law, including the grocers,” he said.

As for the government, this situation was wholly avoidable.

Surely something must be egregiously bad if the people who dutifully collect taxes on behalf of the government and pay license fees would risk running afoul of the law.

The government inserted itself into a private business model without proper consultation and runs the risk of fundamentally hurting these businesses.

It is unclear where the profit centers are for grocers.

Perhaps the margins that have been reduced are where the money to pay staff, pay electricity bills and reinvest come from.

Businesses don’t have the power of governments to sustain deficits ad infinitum.

They are going concerns that people often pour their entire lives into to remain viable.

The government is not in the grocery business, yet it is seeking to reshape it against the advice of those who are.

The price control approach to inflation was wrongheaded and too blunt an instrument to apply so broadly.

The government also made the situation worse by not responding to what the grocers proposed.

Minister of Economic Affairs Michael Halkitis said yesterday that there are “no negotiations that will hold up the amendments”.

“The amendments to the regulations are in place,” Halkitis told reporters before the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“We put them in place October 17. We had some discussions with the retail grocers and the retail pharmacists. We had discussions with the retail grocers where they expressed some concerns. We went back and we made some adjustments.

“We increased some margins to account for perishables and to account for Family Island transportation. We thought that was a reasonable concession to the concerns that they raised.”

It is not a reasonable concession, it is an unwanted intrusion.

However, flawed or not, the law is the law.

And laws should be followed, no matter how much we may disagree with them.

We believe the marijuana laws are unjust.

We believe that the law allows a married person to rape their spouse is disgraceful.

We believe many of our building covenants are outdated.

And we also believe the age of consent needs to be re-examined across the board.

But Parliament’s sovereignty must be respected.

Many laws are nonsensical, but they are not suggestions.

In a democracy, we advocate to change them.

We do not ignore them hoping no one will notice.