For some, a bleak Christmas

Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently concluded that the Bahamian economy continues to recover, that recovery is not trickling down to some New Providence residents, who expect to have a bleak Christmas.

Karen Culmer, 48, an unemployed mother of three, is unsure if she’ll celebrate the holidays this year.

“I can’t even afford a ham or a turkey for Christmas, but thank God for life,” Culmer said.

“I don’t feel Christmas. I don’t feel anything. I feel defeated because I’m a person who loves to work, but I can’t find a job. I’m discouraged because I can’t afford anything so I’m not feeling Christmas at all.”

She said she has been unemployed for more than a year and doesn’t know if she has it in her to continue looking for a job.

Alexandrea Johnson, 31, a mother of four, said she is not looking forward to Christmas on Tuesday because she is broke.

She said she has no running water where she lives and so she is dependent on the government pump for water to bathe and cook with.

Johnson has also been without a refrigerator for roughly four months.

“Having a young baby and not having a fridge is very stressful because I’m a mother that usually breastfeeds and you know that you have to store the breast milk in containers and I can’t do that,” Johnson said.

“But what I’m doing now, I’m cool with a few neighbors so I’m able to pump as much breast milk as possible and I’ll let them store them in their refrigerator and I take out as much as I need.

“Someone is always home by them so that is a plus for me, but buying ice and a little disposable cooler is very expensive.”

Johnson said she has been working odd jobs to ensure her children will have “at least a turkey and one present to open” on Christmas morning.

Alvordis Bullard, 32, a father of two, said he would have been in the same predicament if he didn’t have the support of his family.

“I live with my extended family and they always come together,” Bullard said.

“We all come together and see what we can do to help out each other during times like this. I have a strong support system. I know where I would’ve been if I didn’t have them and that’s locked the hell up.”

Bullard said while he is able to keep his head above water, many other Bahamians are not and that’s why he believes the government needs to “stop increasing taxes without increasing salaries”.

The government increased value-added tax (VAT) from 7.5 percent to 12 percent on July 1.

In June, Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said the government did not intend to raise the minimum wage.

He said doing so could have a deleterious impact on the economy with businesses having to raise product prices to compensate for the increased wages.

This could lead to the cost of living increasing, according to Turnquest.

In May, the Central Bank of The Bahamas released the results of its Financial Literacy Survey 2018.

When respondents were asked to reflect on the last 12 months and indicate whether their income was generally sufficient to make ends meet each month, 47 percent stated that their earnings were usually insufficient to cover their living expenses.

For many, the situation has not improved.

Lachor Saunders, 25, who has worked for the government for 11 years, said he understands how some young men end up making the wrong choices in life around the holidays.

Saunders said some men are “put in a box” financially and “there can only be one outcome”.

“It’ll only be a good Christmas or a bad Christmas and that’s not a good box to put a man in when he’s faced with four or eight children in one house with everyone looking at him. As the daddy you got to provide for all of them,” Saunders said.

He added: “Things have gotten worse because they…raised taxes without raising pay. You got to level the playing field. You got to raise minimum wage.

“You got to level the playing field. You got to allow me to spend at least a little something on my children. But instead you just taxing and taking NIB and VAT without giving back to me.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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