Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The cost of eating

When I go to the supermarket, unless it's a special occasion (and sometimes even then), I automatically reach for the specials, especially on meat, then build our meals around those. But we're lucky -  I don't have to worry that I won't be able to afford the bill at the checkout.

There have been times in my life when I did have to worry, and I still feel very relieved that it's not like that now. But I've certainly noticed the seemingly steady rise in food prices, particularly the healthy fresh stuff.

If GST is put up to 15% in May, food prices will go up yet again. There's no exemption for food in New Zealand. Yet most other comparable countries do have some kind of food exemption. I've just read a very interesting piece by Gordon Campbell about this.

Why, he asks, does New Zealand, "virtually alone in the developed world, think that it’s a good idea to tax the food on the family table"? Most other comparable countries "think it's a terrible idea – for families, and for society."

He looks closely at the example of Australia, where "basic food for human consumption" is free of GST, and a computerized model makes compliance really easy to manage.  It would be good for health, too. A major New Zealand research study shows that cutting GST on food is likely to have lasting health benefits, because people would buy more healthy food if it were cheaper.

PS: The picture above is from one of my favourite retro sites, the Gallery of Regrettable Food. I wish we had an NZ equivalent!

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