Lee, contractor: Cement price increases bad for construction industry
UNC MP for Pointe-a-Pierre David Lee said the increase in cement prices by Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL) will have a negative trickle-down effect on the economy, the lives of many who work in the construction industry and will only be profitable for a foreign company – not TT.
In an interview with Newsday Lee said, "This is the problem that exists when there is a monopoly with any product."
He said the government has limited the possibility for other entities to enter the market, creating a situation where stakeholders and consumers are subject to whatever the monopoly decides on as the price.
Lee highlighted Rock Hard Distribution and their exit from the domestic cement market in 2021 following negotiations which resulted unfavourably for the company.
"I have spoken with contractors and people from my constituency, Pointe-a-Pierre, which is where TCL is based. They are all concerned about this pending price increase."
Lee said allowing other producers to enter the market is not a complicated process and that is the simple resolution to creating a space for competitive prices. "If there is more competition, the competition will drive the prices downward."
He said more reasonable prices would have been the outcome of having more cement distributors operating in TT, like the St Lucia-based cement importer Rock Hard.
"The income generated by Cemex, a Mexican company, does not benefit the people of TT or the local economy."
He said when the most simple material for construction increases, that is the beginning of a problem for anyone who wants to do any kind of construction.
"An increase in cement prices is likely to trigger an increase in the prices of other building materials. This will impact many people because the building and construction industry is one of the largest industries and employers in TT."
The owner of a construction company based in Pointe-a-Pierre, who asked to remain anonymous, told Newsday the increase in cement prices will hurt all business owners and workers in the building construction industry.
He said many people will forego building projects due to price limitations. "Many customers won't be able to afford projects anymore. Many of them will have to revisit their budgets, so even we as contractors are likely to lose jobs because of this."
Asked if the increase in prices of cement is likely to affect the prices of other building products and supplies, he said no.
"If people can't afford cement, they won't see the sense in buying steel, sand and blocks. We are going to see a lot of things staying on the shelves."
TCL on Wednesday said the ex-factory prices will increase by five per cent for ECO cement and eight per cent for premium plus – before-VAT increases of $2.08 to $43.65, and $3.54 to $47.83, respectively, per 42.5kg bag.
In December 2021, TCL raised the price of a 42.5kg bag of ECO cement by eight per cent to $43.71 VAT-inclusive, and by 15 per cent to $46.56 VAT-inclusive for premium of the same weight. At that time, the before-VAT prices were $38.85 and $41.39 respectively. However, the new proposed price list showed before-tax prices of $41.57 and $44.29 respectively, suggesting there was another adjustment since 2021.
"Lee, contractor: Cement price increases bad for construction industry"