Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday urged the government to examine what it actually takes for workers to make ends meet before increasing minimum wages.
His comments follow Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealing last week that minimum wage will increase for government employees.
The prime minister did not say when the increase would take effect or how much it would be.
“The objective ought to be ensuring that people are earned a ‘livable wage’, and the two are not the same, in my view,” Davis said.
“The aim has to be ensuring that people earn enough to live. That ought to be the goal.”
Last year, the central bank revealed that nearly 50 percent of Bahamians are struggling to make ends meet, with monthly earnings usually insufficient to cover their living costs.
Last month, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister announced that the average household light bill will increase by $20 to $30 for roughly 10 months next year.
Business owners and private citizens have also gone on record expressing concerns with the increasing cost of living in The Bahamas.
Davis added that, for the most part, wages in the country are insufficient to meet the needs of individuals.
Last week, Minnis added that the private sector’s minimum wage cannot be increased without more consideration.
Davis also said he doesn’t know the rationale the government is using to introduce the increase, and why it’s being limited to the public service.
“If you’re promoting the growth of the economy, the private sector is a necessary part in that,” he said.
“They should be thinking of initiatives to incentivize private sector growth, and what you’re really doing is giving incentives for people who want to continue to want their ‘government jobs’ handed out by their MP as opposed to making it attractive for people to be in the private sector.
“So, again, thought should be given to those things.”
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell also chimed in on the matter yesterday, labelling Minnis’ announcement “a cold, cynical, calculated move to buy public service support”.
“The PLP left in law a mechanism to deal with the question of a minimum wage,” Mitchell said.
“This mechanism means that the society as a whole gets its representatives to review the impacts across the economy and then make recommendations to the government on what to do.
“We will not oppose any measure that places more spending power in the hands of the ordinary consumer, but it is important that we do not have government by shameless pandering without any thought of the larger impacts.”
Minnis told reporters that government employees will also receive a lump sum payment of $1,400 this month.
In light of this, Mitchell advised public servants to “spend wisely”, and to save their funds if they can.
“We say to public servants, ‘spend wisely’,” he said. “Please put at least one hundred dollars of that lump sum into your credit union account if you can.”