It seems to me that the ‘ lot ‘ of the poor these days is becoming increasingly worse. The cost of basic food stuffs, rice, flour, salt, grain is becoming less attainable to persons without much income, and the basic items are now being taxed out the reach of the indigent persons, man, woman and family.
At one time, consideration was given to the unemployed and their inability to access food. Taxes were removed, income was revised, and education and healthcare was subsidized more than it is to-day. We cannot conclude our population of 2.8 million presents a growth burden, when ten years ago it was 2.5 million. Population therefore has not increased that much.
What about the purchasing power of the impoverished? Two years ago the minimum wage was $4000, and the exchange rate was around US 65.00, at J$ equalling US 1.00; so 4000 worked to be USD 61.50. To-day the $5800 minimum wage translates to $52.73 USD, a loss of 20%. When adjusted for tax payments on basic commodities, we lose a US$6.73 further, making the net pay around $45.50, a loss of 26%, the latter rates calculated at J$110 to the USD.
Yes, we have to consider the exchange rate; we import almost all of our basic needs from countries at world market prices, and USD is the standard that we are using.
Now, no blame must be shared between this Government, and the previous one. Both mismanaged the economy to a point that we are being ridiculed by nations of our size, and of fewer resources. There are benefits and subsidies offered by Government, and I can think of a few, but these add and subtract so quickly, it is not too easy to ascertain which are in effect and which have “run out”.
There is an interesting point made by a writer in the NY Times: Paul Krugman, who has noted poverty in the USA rising, suggests that we could slash benefits, but then this would increase the disincentive to work; and the poor would become less productive, and more frustrated. It is hard to benefit from a lower tax rate when you are suffering from poor nutrition, and inadequate health care, and are unable to send your children to school.
A few, but effective solutions have emerged from a comparison with other similar nations, who bear the burden of excessive poverty, and I will compare countries that are active in the alleviation of poverty:
- Increase an outdated and defunct minimum wage, so that the wage earner is freer to join a broader economy with less poverty. Brazil, the United States, have both taken these steps. The contradicting argument about the preservation of jobs with lower wages is old and tired; and has proved inaccurate. (NY Times, editorial board)
- Providing income savings programs directly to the poor, especially women. Consider “Balsa Familia” in Brazil which gives a weekly stipend to women, to purchase supplies and look after children. The USA has a food stamp program, which the Democrats are fighting to keep. India has a food security program which effectively donates 5 kilos food grains to the poor, every month, from a surplus stock which otherwise would spoil.
- Women Empowerment: By lending small amounts of money to women in families to take on an ancillary occupation, say sewing, cooking, running errands and taxi businesses, among other household tasks, Bangladesh through its Garmeen Banks have turned this method into success for themselves and other Eastern states. A similar program called ‘Kudumbashree’(meaning family prosperity, in Malay the local language) in the Indian State of Kerala encourages women to run their own businesses: Small schools for disabled children, pepper mills, taxi services, and handicraft shops, among others. Money is loaned to the women by an organization like a Parish Council, which uses a three tier system of accountability. This arrangement has proved quite successful, and is not a Government Program, and is unique as it uses an older form of administration.