Mathan Walter

Walter said some the money will be used to educate the public on consumer protection

In the wake of World Consumer Rights Day on Tuesday, March 16, 2016, Director of Trade, Mathan Walter, has revealed that a grant of US$222,843 has been received from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), to be put toward consumer protection and sensitization.

He told DNO that the funds will be put towards the continued drafting of a Consumer Protection Bill, as well as consumer protection communication strategies

“…that is going to ensure that not only do we have a communication strategy to be able to promote consumer-related issues, but that the Consumer Protection Bill would be passed—or would be ready to be passed—in Parliament… Second area is in relation to the topical discussion this time around for World Consumer Rights Day…” he explained during an interview on Friday.

The money, he stated, would also be used for the training of people within the Ministry of Trade’s Consumer Affairs Unit, the creation of a non-government organization to champion consumer rights, and continued communication with the public, to “help consumers make informed decisions.

This year, the Ministry facilitated public sensitization on “hidden danger” in the use of antibiotics and its impact on human life, in keeping with the theme of World Consumer Rights Day this year—‘Antibiotics Off the Menu’.

“In a general sense, what it really speaks to is the use of antibiotics in animal feeds, for example, and the overdose as it relates to antibiotics in the animals that are reared that we eat… so when we, as human beings, eat that meat, then what happens to us is that little by little, it begins to contaminate us,” Walter said.

Walter continued, “And what happens is that because the antibiotics used in animals, and those in humans are similar or the same, you find that when we now fall sick, and we use those antibiotics, our body begins to become resistant to them.”

He noted that the Ministry of Agriculture has taken its own steps in protecting Dominicans from being affected by the antibiotics present in livestock today, both locally and internationally.

“The Ministry of Agriculture has put in place its own internal policies of how to deal with that, to mitigate that kind of situation becoming a problem in Dominica. They are making sure that they know which places suffer a lot from animals being given a lot of that type of antibiotics in feed; so, they try to mitigate against that meat coming in,” he said.

“Even locally now, when animals are medicated if they are sick, they make sure that there is a period of time after medication before the animal is reintroduced into the market for sale. So, by that period of time, the antibiotics would have passed off,” he explained, pointing out that this measure “would minimize the impact that it may possibly have on the future health of Dominican citizens.”

Walter stated that there have been discussions on the use of animal feed which does not contain antibiotics, but instead, is rich with certain properties which help to boost the animals’ immune systems, and help them naturally fight disease.

Meantime he said he hopes to finalize a long-anticipated Consumer Protection Bill which is soon to come. He said the journey to this Bill began before 2008 with a “CARICOM-harmonized” Draft Bill, which been tweaked and amended over the years.

“We need to finalize the bill. I mean, a lot of work has been done on it… We started using a model Consumer Protection Bill from CARICOM—A CARICOM harmonized bill… to ensure that our laws are as harmonized as possible across the entire region, because we are going to share the same common market, the same common economic space… did some tweaks and change because you have to end with a bill that embraces Dominica’s unique circumstances,” Walter noted.

Stakeholders and people from both the public and private sector have been sensitized on the Bill, and allowed to make suggestions.