EDITOR, The Tribune.
Trade unions requests that minimum wage be increased to $300. Because the last increase which was in 2015 and presently stands at $210 is inadequate. The new school year has seen thousands of students will be elevated to higher grades. Resulting in change of curriculums. New teachers, new friends, higher performance demands, peer pressure. New text books, etc. Furthermore, hundreds of toddlers will be embarking on their journey into a new world. A world that will envelop them for many years. With countless parents working for minimum wage thousands of children in transition will be entering new classes ill equipped with the required scholastic materials. So already their performance abilities are impaired. Hence lower GPA for students especially those in government schools. While a good education is paramount on parents’ minds.
With the cost of living in The Bahamas, parents, especially single parents, are finding it difficult to provide even the bare necessities for their families. Many of them are living below or barely above the poverty line. Unfortunately many kids will start their first day back to school with very little or no lunch money. Not trying to be an alarmist, just keeping it real.
These are the ones that will depend on their friends whose families can afford more for them. Most gang members are recruited in schools. Toddlers and pre-schoolers whose single mother a (child herself) starts their first day of ABC by being dropped off at the school by a young relative while their mother is at work juggling two jobs. With higher utility bills and added Vat rates, $210 per week for a single parent can hardly pay the rent much less buy food and clothes, forget about school books. The cost of living here is higher than most countries throughout the world. Higher than all of the Caribbean and the West Indies. It is also the wealthiest in the West Indies and third in the Americas behind the United States and Canada. Taking into consideration the forementioned let us take a look at the level of poverty in the country.
The following is an excerpt from a column entitled “Five things to know about poverty in The Bahamas” written by Julia Morrison In August 2017: “As of 2017, 14.8 percent of the country’s population lives below the poverty line. Not only is this higher than the average global poverty rate, but the number of people living in poverty continues to increase. Currently, it has grown by two percent since 2014.”
On Wednesday, June 11, 2014, Ava Turnquest Tribune reporter wrote “Children under 14 have the highest poverty rate in The Bahamas as national statistics released yesterday reveal more than 40,000 persons in the country live under the poverty line on less than $5,000 per year. Findings show that 12.8 per cent of the population are living in poverty with a 3.5 per cent hike in the annual poverty line since the last recorded study in 2001, from $2,863 to $4,247”.
Moving fast forward to today with unions lobbying for an increase in basic wage already the noise is the small merchants will not be able to pay the proposed hike. For the past several years we have seen a significant increase in cars imported from Japan costing less than five thousand dollars. While the owners of these cars are not only happy they are proud of their possession. On the other hand we have a lot of people being upset that so many of the cheap cars are on the roads.
One of the union leaders pointed out that The Bahamas is fast approaching a country of have and have nots. As long as our country is at the level of poverty it’s at. As long as children will have to go to school without the basic educational tools. As long as they go to school on an empty stomach they will not achieve the maturity required to excel in a world that is besieged by a ravaging society. Unfortunately the majority of senseless violence and crime are in the inner cities where education is a challenge. Thankfully a few civic minded cooperate citizens and churches are responding to the clarion call to help alleviate the burden of the less fortunate and parents everywhere are very grateful for their kindness. Prayerfully more likeminded persons will get on board.
With poverty being what it is one would ask if it can be eradicated. If at first glance when Jesus said in John 12:8 “The poor you will always have with you” We can take it to mean they don’t worry about them they are always going to be around. This verse is often used as an attempt to take the wind out of all the rest of Jesus‘ commands to help the poor and needy and to show love and mercy.
But we see the logic when we read Deuteronomy 15:11 “For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” The thing about minimum wages only those that have to live with it feels it and to those who don’t it don’t matter. It is what it is. God bless you as you reach out to the less fortunate in your community.
October 15, 2019.