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PM says he’s focused on the poor

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that the government is focused on protecting the poor and marginalized.

Minnis was responding to questions over data that revealed the cost of living in the country has increased yet again over the past year.

He said the wealthy can survive on their own.

“My policy and our policy is to do everything that we possibly can to protect the poor and the marginalized,” he said on the sidelines of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association annual general meeting at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island.

“We feel that the wealthy, the rich individuals, regardless of the outcome, they would be able to survive and protect themselves.

“And we would still need them to help generate jobs, employment, etc., but we would do all we can to protect that grouping that needs protection, and that is the poor and marginalized. So, regardless of what happened, policies will be there to ensure their protection.”

According to data from the Department of Statistics, Bahamians are paying more for basic goods and services than they have over the past four years.

It was revealed that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose to 108.81 in September this year. Inflation rose at its fastest pace in March and April this year by four percent, before settling by 1.8 percent in July at the start of the new fiscal year, where it stayed in September.

The CPI increase comes despite a number of tax breaks the government implemented in the 2019/2020 budget.

The areas that showed the highest spikes were healthcare, transportation, furniture and household equipment, restaurants and hotels, alcohol beverages, tobacco and narcotics.

The CPI index for health in September 2018 was 121.15, whereas it stood at 134.95 in September this year. The CPI index for transportation rose from 102.46 in September 2018 to 114.35 in September this year. Alcohol beverages, tobacco and narcotics also showed a similar spike, rising from 114.77 to 119.56 over the same period.

The Minnis administration has faced significant backlash over the past several weeks after announcing an additional fee for Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) consumers due to a rate reduction bond.

The Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019, was passed in the House of Assembly last week. During the debate of the bill, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said that the bond will result in an average of a $20 to $30 monthly increase to household bills for a 10-month period.

The opposition has raised concern over the disproportionate impact that a flat-fee increase on all bills would have on the poor and those who consume less electricity.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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