Tuesday, Jun 2, 2020
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COVID-19 exposes how dangerously unsustainable our financial habits are

Dear Editor,

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the Bahamian economy.

The temporary closures of Baha Mar, Atlantis, Sandals Resort and other major hotel employers in The Bahamas has left tens of thousands of Bahamians in a very financially vulnerable situation, with so many wage earners developing the habit of living from hand to mouth.

I recall awhile back, a Central Bank official bemoaning the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Bahamian workforce don’t even have $1,000 saved.

Ours is mainly a consumer-based economy that heavily relies on outside factors for its prosperity.

We hardly produce anything.

A close relative of mine recently visited Barbados before the COVID-19 outbreak and was immensely impressed with the number of farms in that country. He was also alarmed at the fact that many of the Bajans he met knew absolutely nothing about The Bahamas.

Some Caribbeanists do not consider Bahamians to be members of the region.

For what it’s worth, seeing scores of Bahamians standing on long lines in the heat for food vouchers underscores how fragile our collective economic situation is.

It would be interesting to know exactly how many Bahamians are millionaires. I suspect few are.

The gap between the haves and the have nots is ever widening, due to any number of reasons.

One reason many people in this country were caught with their pants down with the advent of COVID-19, is due to poor financial decisions made.

Every year, we take upwards of two and three unnecessary shopping trips to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, in addition to a boat cruise to the Caribbean or Alaska.

We would spend $900 on an iPhone rather than buy an affordable smartphone.

Rather than spend $4,500 on a good second hand vehicle, some of us would rather take out a car loan of $500 monthly when our salary is only $2,500, in an effort to keep up with the Joneses. That leaves us with $2,000 with a monthly house mortgage payment of $1,000.

With $1,000 remaining, we must figure out a way to pay the utilities and buy grocery and gas.

Every workday, we spend $20 on breakfast and lunch rather than prepare our meals at home.

Every weekend, we go out to dinner.

Every weekend, Bahamian women are in the beauty salons getting a manicure and a pedicure and a new Remy wig attached to their hair.

As for the young men, many of them want to purchase the latest Jordan and LeBron James sneakers.

Just a mere few weeks of not receiving a pay check has plunged thousands of Bahamians into abject poverty.

I’m not talking about minimum wage earners. I’m talking about Bahamians who are professionals.

I’m talking about hotel and restaurant workers, many of whom make enviable salaries and handsome gratuities.

As a people, we have bad habits.

In order to supplement our salary, each day we seek that elusive pot of gold by religiously spinning away our hard-earned money in the web shops.

What’s more, there are those Bahamian men who keep sweethearts.

Their pay is divided between the marital residence and the sweetheart.

Upon retirement, many of these chronic philanderers typically have absolutely nothing to show for decades in the workforce, other than a government low cost home. And when the day of reckoning comes, rather than take personal responsibility, we more rather blame the government for our financial crisis.

And this is what I am hearing from some Bahamians. It’s always the government’s fault.

COVID-19 has exposed in the worse possible way just how dangerously unsustainable our financial habits are.

Kevin Evans

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