The poverty problem

Let it be known that there are many among us suffering. The extent of their suffering is varied, but many are without work, without regular food supply, without housing and, sadly, without hope. The Bahamas has historically been known as a prosperous nation.

However, the issue of poverty in The Bahamas is not a new one. When we look at the fundamental issues in our country, and most countries, poverty, including intense poverty, is most times included.

The main factors contributing to this social dilemma have historically been attributed to lack of education, generational poverty, substance abuse, poor financial management, along with lack of programs and initiatives to financially empower those least among us.

I am of the belief that individuals can escape this unfortunate circumstance, and for those experiencing this state, it does not determine their worth nor value. However, as a nation we must put a magnifying glass on this issue given the economic crunch we are now facing.

The situation

I applaud the government for making the difficult decision to raise the minimum wage in The Bahamas.

Inflation is here; we all are facing it, and for the poor the effects of it bring fear and discontent that many of us cannot imagine.

As of September 2022, the inflation rate of The Bahamas ballooned to 6.5 percent year-over-year. This means that if we take an aggregate or combine the changes in price (weighted) on all goods and services offered in The Bahamas, customers are now paying 6.5 percent more.

It must be noted that the price for all goods and services offered in The Bahamas did not rise proportionally. Major increases in price reflected in The Bahamas National Statistical Institute (BNSI) Consumer Price Index (CPI) Section September 2022 press release includes food (including groceries), health and transport (particularly gasoline).

It must also be noted that the inflation that we experience in The Bahamas is mainly caused by our dependency on the increase in goods we import.

We live in a time of global shocks and economic uncertainty. Due to the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, bottleneck shipping crisis and subsequent actions that resulted from them, we Bahamians find ourselves the beneficiary of economic turmoil we had no part in creating.

We live within a global economy, and historically we find that whenever there are global economic shocks, we experience their effects throughout our archipelago.

Although current global affairs have exacerbated the financial difficulties that many Bahamians face, Bahamians have been suffering from poverty pre-COVID-19.

It is a problem, and it has always been a problem. Yes, it may not be totally erased within our lifetime, but I am of the belief that its effect can be alleviated.


Past labor reports of The Bahamas reveal that individuals with higher educational achievements statistically were more likely to find jobs. This is important because it is evident that many of our young people do not see the value of education.

Our national examination average has stalled at a “D” for quite some time, thus reflecting both the state of our educational system along with the attitude of our students towards education.

Many of our young people are too captivated by social media and negative influences.

Many of them may not see or believe that their performance in the classroom will equate to a better financial future for them.

As we look to the future of our nation, education should be a major priority. We must not only assess the impact that the pandemic had on our students, but their attitudes, beliefs and outlook on our educational system holistically.

We were faced with a major educational dilemma in The Bahamas before COVID-19, and we need to identify real problems and address them in a way that puts the students first.

When I say put the students first, we should look at the classrooms through the eyes of our students. What are they focusing on during school hours?

How do they feel about homework? What do they think about their teachers?

Are our educational institutions designed for the growth we wish to see?

I believe that if we do not disrupt the status quo things will not get better. In fact, they may even get worse. We may not solve it right away, but if what we are doing isn’t working, let’s try something else!

Give meaningfully and sustainably

Most people in The Bahamas identify their religion as Christian. We have more churches in The Bahamas than we can count. Has the message of Christ in Matthew 25:35-36 and 40 fallen on deaf ears?

“‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “

The Christian community in The Bahamas is quite large and spreads across many denominations that may have varying doctrines and beliefs.

However, among them assistance to the poor has for the most part been a point of agreement.

Are we more focused on building bigger buildings, growing congregations, and expanding businesses that we forget the homeless man at our church gates?

Given the influence and professional skills within the Christian community, more should be done to ensure that we have no homeless in our community, and anyone who is in need of food, water or clothing should not be turned away.

Even broader than the Christian community, as a nation we need to take up the cause to empower those in need in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Many among us know the steps of building financially secure families. The problem is that many companies and individuals do so to enhance their brand image and produce goodwill in the community. This is mainly for publicity and usually one-time events.

I applaud those in our community who have created sustainable charities and programs that impact the most vulnerable among us.

However, as things get worse economically, our outreach must get stronger.

I believe that food and clothing pantries, drug treatment initiatives, financial literacy education, family counseling, innovative skills training and business incubators are all great ideas to get started for those who choose to be the change they wish to see.

But don’t stop there. We face a real poverty issue in The Bahamas, and it is not an issue that needs much validation.

Let us take up the cause of being a vehicle to better the lives of those around us.

Let us be motivated by the thought of a 20-year-old unemployed single mother with three kids getting mentorship and support from our community and transforming her home from despair to relief.

Let us think about the young man on the blocks peddling drugs and caged in by gang influences being taken under the wing of our community and transformed into a positive contributor of our society.

We hear the stories all the time. It can happen, but it won’t unless we intentionally form partnerships, plan and execute.

• Malcolm Foulkes is the recipient of the 2015 Government of The Bahamas Ministry of Youth Award in Religion, and the 2018 Dr. Myles and Ruth Munroe award for Outstanding Leadership. He is the CEO of the BMCI, and is a former marketing executive and sales and marketing manager at a mega resort and luxury retail chain in The Bahamas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration along with multiple professional business certifications. Comments and feedback can be sent to

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