NASSAU, BAHAMAS – NGO director Khandi Gibson has stressed that the national minimum wage hike is not enough to tackle the growing level of need in the country as the gap widens for those living under the poverty line.
Gibson, the director of Family of All Murder Victims (FOAM), called on the government to match the efforts of grassroots organizations and increase funding.
His comments come as the country’s finance secretary warned of potential headwinds in the economy, such as the impact of inflation and a possible recession which could impact tourism.
“We still have people calling us every day who are evicted and homeless, have nowhere to sleep, have nowhere to go,” Gibson said.
“We still have people calling here constantly day and night, someone just called me a while ago asking if I had any groceries for her 59-year-old mother, with three children and therefore the needs are great in this country.”
Gibson is a director of Family of All Murder Victims (FOAM) and a volunteer with numerous other nonprofits. She said that while raising the minimum wage is a good move that will help to some extent, it has not proven to be enough in personal experience.
“When you walk into a grocery store with $20 and only come out with a bag of rice and a box of corn-beef, how could that be of much help? We appreciate it but it is long overdue, we appreciate it but the cost of living has gone up,” she said.
“You raise the minimum wage on the right, but then the BPL went up. You raise the minimum wage and stock up, you raise the minimum wage but the grocery store bill has gone up. Everything is mounted […] and you have VAT.
The director of the NGO said that over the past few months she had been bombarded with phone calls, emails and messages from the app from people in need of food, clothing and a shelter and, as things stand, it and other small grassroots NGOs need more funding support from the government to sustain regular giving.
“I have men calling for groceries, can you hear me? Men, calling for groceries,” Gibson continued.
“Before there were only women, women and their children, now men call […] I know men have pride.
“When big NGOs close at a certain time, grassroots NGOs open 24 hours a day without any funding. […] Nobody gives you money for gas to say, pick up such and such coral port or wherever they live to put them in a safe place until social services open the next day […] we therefore ask the government to match our efforts.
Financial Secretary Simon Wilson was asked about the threat of a recession and its potential impact during a press briefing on Friday.
The country’s budget deficit narrowed in the first quarter, and Wilson said officials expect the trend to continue, but noted that there could be friction from other sectors.
Wilson said: “We see no reason why (the trend) cannot continue, however, we know there are possible headwinds, obviously the global economy is a risk, high fuel prices which have an impact on what BPL and the Water and Sewerage Corporation is a risk that we have to manage very carefully, and the potential for a recession is going to have an impact on the tourism numbers, but overall on the revenue side , it was very encouraging […] but we don’t want to celebrate too soon, its a work in progress I say.
Wilson acknowledged that low-income households would likely be hardest hit by a possible recession.
“Well obviously if you have a recession, the impact is always felt at the lower income level,” he said.
“Right now if you look at the economy in the Bahamas, the economy is strong and robust, but obviously there’s always a concern for people in the bottom percentile. So that’s where we feel, they would feel any pressure, people who are on the margins.
The first-quarter performance was attributed to a 9.7% increase in revenue collection, according to Wilson at Friday’s press conference.
However, Free National Movement (FNM) President Dr Duane Sands challenged the government’s tone in celebrating the milestone as it stands in stark contrast to the reality many people in the country are facing.
“Grocery prices are on the rise and interestingly, as the public find it increasingly difficult to survive, here we see our government rejoicing at the amount of VAT revenue it has collected” , did he declare.
“They certainly haven’t stopped spending, they certainly haven’t stopped travelling, so let’s see how it goes for the average Bahamian, because the misery index in the Bahamas is exploding.”
Sands acknowledged that “headwinds” are approaching based on international economic forecasts; however, he believes Bahamians will face a significantly higher cost of living due to the “misguided” and “misguided” choices of the Davis-led administration.
“The pain will start when people look at those bills (service fees) and ask the question, ‘What do you know what?'” Sands said.
“They’ll spin around and tell people, suck for a little while, better days are coming, and so on. Hope is not an effective budget strategy, and therefore have dropped the ball. having created the pain, this administration will act as if it had nothing to do with it, that it is beyond its control and that the pain people are feeling is not real.