DEPUTY Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.
By FARRAH JOHNSON
FINANCE Minister K Peter Turnquest yesterday said the government has not given any detailed consideration to increasing the minimum wage.
He moved to temper expectations after Labour Minister Dion Foulkes told reporters on Tuesday the National Tripartite Council was actively discussing the matter.
Mr Foulkes noted the council has not presented any definitive recommendations.
Yesterday, Mr Turnquest said: “The government has not given any detailed consideration to that matter at this point. I know there is a feeling in the public that there ought to be some adjustments to the minimum wage.
“We of course know that there has been some increase in the cost of living as a result of the increase in the value added tax and the inflation rate shows that, but the trend also shows that is evening out, as we expect, and that over time it will start to normalise.”
Mr Turnquest underscored the need to measure the impact such an increase would have on current growth projections.
“And what it will mean to the increase in the cost of living as a result of a potential increase in the wage, and what dampening effect that may have on employment and the economy,” he said.
The last minimum wage increase was in 2015, during the Christie administration, from $150 per week to $210 per week. This was the first time the national minimum wage was raised since 2002.
Among workers canvassed on the Bay Street strip yesterday, many pointed to last year’s VAT increase from 7.5 percent to 12 percent as the chief argument for an overdue increase.
Rayshunna Moss, a retail sales associate, said: “If your rent is $120 a week and you only getting pay $210 (a week) and you have three small children, what you suppose to do? Especially if you ain’t get no car to go to work - and even if you had a car you need gas. So, I say God bless those who surviving off of $210 because I really don’t know how they is do it.
“That ain’t no money and a lot of places want $120-$150 a week (for rent) so what it leave from that? That’s only $70 you left with for the rest of the week. How you suppose to eat? How you suppose to take care of your kids? How you suppose to even save? You can’t do nothing with $210; they need to raise that to about $300 to be rational and fair. That’s a fair amount give and take according to how your household is too because if you have four children that still ain’t much.”
A bar manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added: “Well I feel like the minimum wage is really too low for the Bahamian people in this economy. Especially the hour rate because it’s only $5.25 per hour, I think it’s really too low. On top of that, with the VAT, the 12 percent is ridiculous. People can’t really survive. Minimum wage for 40 hours a week, that’s only $210. There’s nothing much they can do with that. Like groceries, you go in the grocery shop you coming out with three bags for $150.
“You get children in school, you get rent to pay, I think minimum wage should be no less than at least $9 per hour for all Bahamian citizens. Tourists now these days holding back on their money, they’re not even tipping like that because of the 15 percent gratuity and the 12 percent VAT, so that’s 27 percent on top of their bill. So once they see that, automatically they don’t tip anymore. Now before this 12 percent VAT, minimum wage was okay because people never use to look at the VAT, but right now people carrying home like maybe $15 or $10 in a day. So I really think minimum wage is really too low. It needs to be at least $8.50 to $9 an hour and I think everybody could provide on that hour rate.”
A tour guide, who also requested anonymity, said: “This is how I feel about minimum wage: everything is so expensive here in Nassau, so minimum wage should go up. One person cannot survive on their own living in a household if they want to move out from their parents. What we need to do is we need minimum wage to go up so that if a person decides to move out, they can sustain themselves. We don’t have to have a partner or a roommate just to survive. Food is expensive, clothes is expensive, babies are expensive. We need this to go up. I mean, this is ridiculous. I can’t even survive on my own, my child milk is $22.50, I can’t survive off of that. I have to be begging people for money and yes I work in the tourism business, but that doesn’t mean I making money. But everybody feel as if though we making money, we’re not. So minimum wage needs to go up at least $350 a week. That’s what I feel.”