How to address high consumer prices

Go Lean Commentary

The Caribbean is arguably the best address on the planet, but a lot is missing. There are certain aspects of Caribbean life that is hard … and expensive.

Is it only the actuality of islands that make Caribbean life so expensive or are there other dynamics? These issues apply:

  • The need to import consumer products is a constant feature of island life.
  • An island is usually more limited with landmass, (sans Australia).
  • Opportunities for agricultural exploitations may be limited.
  • Transportation cost is the biggest hurdle, everything must be flown in or shipped in. The low-cost logistics of rail or trucks are irrelevant because of the reality of being surrounded by water.

This high cost of island living is not just a Caribbean issue; the American State of Hawaii has the same issues. Consider the news article in the Appendix below – from September 2013 – describing Hawaii’s plight.

Drawing from that experience, we are able to identify the following challenges consistent with island life … everywhere in the modern world:

  • Energy Costs – Unless the source of energy is homegrown (think Geo-Thermal Geysers in Iceland) the logistical costs of getting energy to an island is higher than mainland options.
  • Limited Land – There is competition for the available land on small tropical islands. The laws of supply-and-demand therefore implies that the price would rise with the demand. A higher demand for real estate puts upward pressure on home prices and rentals.
  • Consumer Prices – The consumer products to satisfy the day-to-day needs of island residence tend to be more expensive due to importation and an increase in transportation costs.
  • Heightened Corrosion – Islands are surrounded by salt water. There are also consistent trade winds. This is a bad combination for metal fixtures, appliances and equipment. Cars tend to suffer more wear-and-tear on islands compared to the mainlands due to this exposure to salt water on a daily basis.
  • Healthcare Realities – Healthcare costs are higher in island locales. The infrastructure needed to minimize costs (energy, product pricing) are less optimized on islands. Plus the lower populations affect the actuarial numbers for insurance pools.

This above summary applies equally to life in … the Caribbean. 27 of the 30 Caribbean member-states are islands (sans Belize, Guyana and Suriname) and the residents there have to contend with these hard realities.

One of the Caribbean member-states is the US Virgin Islands territory. Their government officials have been monitoring the foregoing societal factors for higher-than-mainland costs, and have become enraged over one factor: the price of oil/petroleum products. The assertion in this territory is that all that “glitters may not be gold”, something is afoul in the economic equations that result in oil/petroleum pricing. There may be some other factors at play.

See the article here:

Title: USVI to address high consumer prices

CU Blog - How to address high consumer prices - Photo 1ST THOMAS, USVI — The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs has announced an initiative with the attorney general’s office to take action to bring relief to the consumers of the US Virgin Islands.

“The Department of Licensing and Consumer continues to be concerned with the high prices consumers are paying for essential commodities in the Virgin Islands, especially food and gas,” said Commissioner Devin Carrington.

The commissioner stated that this concern is exacerbated by the fact that, in the past, retailers have justified the prices charged consumers, in part, on the cost of fuel on the world market that affects shipping and transportation costs paid by importers of consumer goods.

“If this is the case, periodic surveys conducted by the department for food and gas prices reflect no appreciable change in the prices paid by consumers for these essential commodities. This is so even though the price of oil per barrel is currently at the lowest it has been in a ten-year period. If fuel costs are lower, prices at the pump and on the shelf should be lower as well,” Carrington said.

Having observed the continuing trend in prices in the US Virgin Islands, despite lower fuel costs, the department has decided to take a more aggressive posture in order to bring relief to the consumers.

“After examination of survey data that may suggest fraudulent manipulation of prices, the department made the decision to enlist the attorney general’s office to launch an investigation into the causes of high consumer prices,” Carrington noted.
Source: Caribbean News Now – Online Magazine – Posted 10/29/2015 from:

Welcome to the Caribbean, arguably the best address on the planet; in terms of physical beauty, absolutely yes; but in terms of a home to live, work and play – not so much.

VIDEO – Guadeloupe’s sky high prices spoil tropical paradise


Uploaded on Feb 25, 2009 – This report was posted during the impactful 2009 general strike on the French Caribbean island Guadeloupe. One of the protester demands was more help to cope with the high cost of living. This report specifically addresses the outlying island of Marie-Galante where prices are particularly high.

The book Go Lean…Caribbean addresses the issues that makes life in the Caribbean difficult and expensive. Identifying all the challenges of island life above, the book serves as a roadmap for the introduction of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU) with the strategies, tactics and implementations to optimize Caribbean life. The book details how the CU is chartered with these prime directives to elevate life in the islands:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance to support these engines.

So specifically, why does the US Virgin Islands suffer from higher consumer prices with gasoline? Or generally, why is the Caribbean region expected to pay higher prices?

The answer is the same for us as for Hawaii (as depicted in the below Appendix) …

… plus the added burdens of rent-seeking!

In a previous blog/commentary, this bad community ethos of rent-seeking was identified as running contrary to the goal of optimizing the economy. Unfortunately, in the Caribbean the “free market” is not always “free” nor a “market”; sometimes, there are Crony-Capitalistic and monopolistic forces at play.

The purpose of the Go Lean roadmap is not just to report on Caribbean failures, but also to project solutions. The book details these 3 initiatives which will be used to impact the high costs of living:

  • Caribbean Postal Union
  • Regional Energy Grid
  • Union Atlantic Turnpike & Pipelines

To lower the eco-systems for higher costs of living, the Go Lean roadmap introduces the Caribbean Postal Union (CPU). This vision is identified as a model for Caribbean logistics, our means for delivering the mail. But the focus of the book Go Lean…Caribbean and the CPU is not just postal mail, but rather logistics for packages and chattel goods. So the Go Lean/CU/CPU does not model other Postal operations (like the US Postal Service debunked in the book at Page 99), but rather successful enterprise in the logistics industry, like Amazon and Alibaba.

The Go Lean roadmap seeks to change the entire eco-system of Caribbean commerce and logistics, with the interaction with postal operations. Part-and-parcel to this CPU effort is the launch of the social media website to bring much of the general public interactions and marketing online. Now island residents can easily order consumer goods online from any merchant (foreign and domestic) and have them delivered… via the CPU. This creates a “great equalizer” for Caribbean life; it brings downward pressure on consumer prices. This vision is defined early in the book (Pages 12 & 14) in the following pronouncements in the Declaration of Interdependence:

xv.     Whereas the business of the Federation and the commercial interest in the region cannot prosper without an efficient facilitation of postal services, the Caribbean Union must allow for the integration of the existing mail operations of the governments of the member-states into a consolidated Caribbean Postal Union, allowing for the adoption of best practices and technical advances to deliver foreign/domestic mail in the region.

xxvii. Whereas the region has endured a spectator status during the Industrial Revolution, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this new economy, the Information Revolution. Rather, the Federation must embrace all the tenets of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to serve as an equalizing element in competition with the rest of the world. The Federation must bridge the digital divide and promote the community ethos that research/development is valuable and must be promoted and incentivized for adoption.

Regional Energy Grid
Fulfilling energy needs is a great target for lean, agile operations, perfect for the CU technocracy. A more technocratic solution would equate to lower energy costs.

This Go Lean/CU roadmap recognizes that modern life has now expanded to include food, clothing, shelter and energy as a basic need. And thusly the book proposes many solutions for the region to optimize energy …

  • generation – Green options (solar, wind turbines, tidal and natural gas)
  • distribution – Underwater cables to connect individual islands
  • consumption – efficient battery back-ups for home deployments.

No “stone is left unturned”. Go Lean posits that the average costs of energy can be decreased from an average of US$0.35/kWh to US$0.088/kWh in the course of the 5-year term of this roadmap; (Page 100). That’s a 75% savings!

Union Atlantic Turnpike & Pipelines
The “Union Atlantic” Turnpike, (modeled after the Union Pacific efforts in the US back in 1862), is a big initiative of the CU to logistically connect all CU member-states for easier transport of goods and passengers. There are many transportation arteries envisioned for the Turnpike: Pipeline, Ferry, Highways, and Railroad. (Imagine a sophisticated network of ferry boats on schedule service to every island).

The book Go Lean … Caribbean asserts that pipelines can be strategic, tactical and operationally efficient for lowering the cost of delivery in the Caribbean region, for energy communities like oil, gas and water. They can also mitigate challenges from Mother Nature, create jobs and grow the economy at the same time. The book purports that a new technology-enhanced industrial revolution is emerging, in which there is more efficiency for installing-monitoring-maintaining pipelines. Caribbean society must participate in these developments, in order to optimize its costs of living. This point is pronounced early in the book with this Declaration of Interdependence (Page 14), with these statements:

xxvi. Whereas the Caribbean region must have new jobs to empower the engines of the economy and create the income sources for prosperity, and encourage the next generation to forge their dreams right at home, the Federation must therefore foster the development of new industries, like that of … pipelines …

There are many best practices around the world for the region to study and from which to glean insight and wisdom. The successful application of this roadmap will foster such best practices to optimize living in the Caribbean and lowering the costs of doing so. The wisdom the Go Lean book gleans are presented as a series of community ethos, strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies; a detailed sample is listed as follows:

Community Assessment – French Caribbean: Organization and Discord Page 17
Community Ethos – Deferred Gratification Page 21
Community Ethos – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 22
Community Ethos – Intelligence Gathering – Pricing Analysis Page 23
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Community Ethos – Ways to Close the Digital Divide Page 31
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Strategy – Mission – Embrace the advances of technology Page 46
Strategy – Mission – Re-boot and Optimize Postal Operations Page 46
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Postal Services Page 78
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Interstate Commerce Administration Page 79
Implementation – Year 1 / Assemble Phase – Establish CPU Page 96
Anecdote – Implementation Plan – Mail Services – US Dilemma Page 99
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change Page 101
Implementation – Ways to Develop a Pipeline Industry Page 107
Implementation – Improve Mail Services – Electronic Supplements Page 108
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Implementation – Ways to Improve Energy Usage Page 113
Planning – 10 Big Ideas for the Caribbean Region – Cyber Caribbean Page 127
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Interstate Commerce Page 129
Advocacy – Ways to Make the Caribbean Better Page 131
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 168
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage the Social Contract Page 170
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Technology Page 197
Advocacy – Ways to Foster e-Commerce Page 198
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Main Street Page 201
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Transportation – Ferries & Pipelines Page 205
Appendix – Alaska Marine Highway Page 280
Appendix – Eurotunnel Model – English Channel Tunnel Page 281

This commentary therefore features the subjects of commerce, logistics and energy. Yet the Go Lean book asserts that the problems of the Caribbean are too big for any one member-state to assuage alone, that rather the requisite investment of the resources (time, talent, treasuries) will require an integrated region-wide, professionally-managed, deputized technocracy to effect greater production and greater accountability.

The Caribbean can do better, even better than the US State of Hawaii. (While Hawaii is 2500 miles from the US mainland, Trinidad is 7 miles from the South American mainland; the Bahama island of Bimini is 50 miles away from Miami, Florida). This new improved infrastructure – described above – awaits deployment. The biggest ingredient missing in the region is the “will” of the people. We hereby urge all in the region to lean-in to this Go Lean roadmap.

This is the take-away of this consideration: Ferries, pipelines, tunnels and railways functioning as “blood vessels to connect all the organs” within the region, thus allowing easier transport of goods (ordered online) and people among the islands and the mainland states (Belize, Guyana or Suriname) – at cheaper costs.

Now is the time for all of the Caribbean, the people and governing institutions, to work to make their homeland a better and more affordable place to live, work and play. 🙂

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix: Living Hawaii – Why Is the Price of Paradise So High?

By: Kery Murakami

Source:; posted September 4, 2013; retrieved October 30, 2015

So this is paradise. Palm trees sway in the trade winds that take the edge off the late-summer sun. Nearby, tanned bodies glisten on the sand.

Cabbie Lam Lu sits at the entrance of the parking garage at the AlaMoanaCenter shopping mall, overworked and stressed out as he awaits a fare. Lu is parked outside Foodland. Inside the supermarket, an advertisement shows two smiling girls eating hamburgers. Maybe they shouldn’t be so happy. The store’s pack of hamburger buns goes for $5.59, almost $3 more than it costs at a similar market in Washington, D.C. Do the kids want to wash it down with some milk? That’s another $3.69 per quart, which is nearly double the $1.88 it costs in the nation’s capital.

Yes, we know it is pricey here. Cars run on the most expensive gas in the nation, at $4.35 a gallon on a recent day. Our shopping centers and our homes use electricity that’s twice as expensive per kilowatt hour as the next costliest state, Alaska. We have to earn more per hour than Californians and New Yorkers to afford a two-bedroom home. Hawaii actually has the ninth highest median income in the nation, at $59,605. That sounds great to many people on the mainland, but when the cost of living is factored in, Hawaii slides down to the 21st highest median income. And we pay more for goods and services than residents of any other state.

And, as we all know, the list goes on. It is why we work so hard, skimp so much.

All of which is why Lu looks so glum. He doesn’t surf. He doesn’t hang out at the beach. To make ends meet, he drives his cab 12 hours per day, seven days a week. For every $100 he makes in fares, $15 of it goes for gas.

“No time for paradise,” he said.

Does It Have to be This Way?

In an ongoing series, Civil Beat will examine the reasons behind the high cost of living and how it affects Hawaii’s submerged middle class. How come life is so expensive here? Why is food — including our beloved Spam — so pricey? Should rentals and real estate around the islands really compare with world-class cities like San Francisco and New York City? And why do we pay so much just to sit at home with the lights on?

It all adds up to the price of paradise, the phrase coined by University of Hawaii law professor Randy Roth in two best-selling books by that name that he edited and co-authored in the early 1990s. And it affects every aspect of our lives, at every stage from childhood to parenthood and beyond, to our final days in some of the costliest nursing homes in the country.

We’ve heard the explanations. Many people accept it because we are on our archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ocean 2,500 miles from the West Coast ports that so much of our stuff ships through. There is a set amount of real estate on the islands, and there is competition for how it is used, which puts intense pressure on farmers, home renters and buyers. Some locals blame tourist-generated inflation. Others wonder who is getting rich — and maybe profiteering — off of our vulnerabilities. Others point at unions, a lack of competition, our small consumer market, high taxes.

Goods and Services

So, what can be done to bring down the cost of living here? What are the actual costs — of shipping, of transportation, of labor, of regulation. We look forward to breaking them down.

We’ll also look at what political and economic interests are standing in the way of making Hawaii more affordable and how the islands might remake themselves politically and economically to improve residents’ quality of life.

As part of this, we want to hear from you about your experiences. What sorts of things do you question the cost of? What everyday products have inexplicably high price tags? What do you want to know about, what have you sacrificed to live here and what do you Print

In the meantime, here are some facts of life in our islands:

— Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the nation, according to a U.S. Commerce Department Bureau of Economic Analysis report in June. The cost of living is 16 percent higher than the national average. (Second place goes to New York.)

— A single person can earn as much as $54,850 and qualify for housing assistance on Oahu. For a family of four, the cut-off is $78,300, according to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority. In most of the country, those would be comfortably middle-class incomes.

— We spend more on housing. Based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development data, the National Low Income Housing Coalition says the median cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment in Hawaii is $1,671 a month. That’s not just the highest nationally, it is about 71 percent more than the national average of $977.

Based on the HUD standard that families shouldn’t spend more than a third of their income on housing, the coalition calculated what hourly wage people around the country would have to earn to afford such an apartment. Hawaii again earned the dubious rank of No. 1. A resident here would have to earn the most: $32.14, compared with a national average of $25.25 per hour.


— A 2013 report by the Center for Housing Policy found that Honolulu was the fifth most expensive city for home buyers. The average income necessary to own one, according to the center, is $115,949.

— Similarly, the people of Hawaii pay the highest electricity rates at 37 cents per kilowatt hour, triple the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the the US. Energy Information Agency. That translates into bills that are two, three or even four times those in other states. While rates can fluctuate quickly around the country, Hawaii residents are currently spending $60 per month more than people in Alabama, the state with the next highest monthly bill (even though Alabamans pay much lower per-kilowatt rates than residents of some states).


— The cost of having a car (insurance, gas, maintenance, depreciation, etc.) is the eighth highest in the nation here in Hawaii. A study last year by, a car pricing website, estimated that Hawaii drivers will have to spend $52,683 on their cars over the next five years, which is about $3,000 more than the national average. Hawaii cars also depreciate the fastest in the nation, by $16,809 over a five-year period. We also pay the most interest to finance a vehicle, $4,084, and the gas bill for those five years, $15,822, is also the highest in the nation.

— Food costs more. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculates the differences in cost around the country to determine the size of food stamp benefits, and has found that food prices in Hawaii are 70 percent more than the national average. According to the USDA’s calculations, a family of four with young children nationally should be able to eat on a “thrifty” food budget of $373 per month. In Hawaii, it would cost the same family $632 for the same meals.

— We have to work more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6.2 percent of Hawaii workers have more than one job, compared to only 4.9 percent nationally.


An Age-Old Problem

There are those who say don’t worry. Be happy. Lucky you live Hawaii. But others note there are real impacts. Even for a middle-class that manages to scrape by, the cost of paradise often catches up to us late in life.

Bruce Bottorff, spokesman for the Hawaii chapter of the AARP, says that high prices have made it hard for most people to save for the day when they need help to live. “Most adult families have mortgages and rent, transportation, food and beverage costs, health care. And when you have all these costs, it makes it difficult to set aside an additional sum of money for an eventuality down the road. People take care of their immediate needs,” he said.

As a result, the AARP’s annual survey of Hawaii residents over 50 years old last year found that three in four said they did not want to rely on families and friends to take care of them in their old age, but more than half said they had no real plan for how they’d afford elderly care when they need it. (They acknowledged that they probably would have to rely on their families and friends.)

No wonder Tony Lenzer and his family have been feeling plenty of pressure. Lenzer, 83, said he had to put his wife, Joan, in a care home this year because she suffers from a variety of health problems, including dementia. Their children had taken turns helping Tony take care of his wife at home. But they couldn’t anymore. “We couldn’t keep her safe. She’s too frail,” he said.

They were among the (relatively) lucky ones because they bought long-term care health insurance that covers most of the nearly $9,500-a-month cost, Lenzer explained.

If they hadn’t, she would not have been able to afford the care home, Lenzer said. “I think it would be a very difficult situation. We would have to rely on family members, possibly friends, possibly neighbors to help out with the care. And even then we wouldn’t have been available for her 24/7.”

Old, with dementia, and needing your neighbor to bathe you.


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