NASSAU, BAHAMAS – There is no provision in the current budget for a public sector minimum wage increase, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance K Peter Turnquest said yesterday.
Turnquest said Cabinet is ‘discussing’ the matter as he fielded questions from reporters outside the Churchill Building.
“We do not have in our budget this year for a minimum wage,” he said.
“Cabinet is still discussing the matter so it would be a bit premature for me to give any definitive statement on it. We are in the middle of negotiations with a number of unions and some are about to come up. This will all be a part of the discussions that we have going forward in terms of how we address all of the labour issues that are before us and try to settle all these matters as quickly as possible.”
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis recently stated on the sidelines of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association annual general meeting that there will be an increase in minimum wage for government employees. “What I can also say is the minimum wage that government pays its staff, that will be elevated, but the minister responsible for public service will give more details on that,” said Minnis.
Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis recently urged the government to examine what it
takes for workers to make ends meet before increasing minimum wage.
Mr Turnquest noted yesterday that a private sector wage increase is a more complex issue. “Everyone would advocate and support a livable wage. However there are limitations in any system. Those of us who have been private sector employers know what the pressure is from the personnel cost that are a part of operating business particularly a service business. We have to take all of this into account so that we don’t stifle the growth we have started to see develop the last two years. We have been on a reasonable path and we have to make sure we continue to stoke that and not do anything that may discourage persons from investing and the continued upward trend that we have seen,” said Mr Turnquest.
He continued, “This is not a simple issue. There are a lot of things that go into this macro-economic issue, looking at competition and growth factors that drive the economy and we have to ensure that we don’t do things that a may create an immediate gratification but cost long term issues. We are already a high cost destination and as we increase the cost of doing business these cost go on to add to the cost of providing services to the community. I think we all appreciate that there are those that need a hand up and we certainly want to encourage the private sector to do as much as they can to help us to raise that minimum standard. The government is looking at it from its own perspective to see what it can do to help to raise the the stand and hopefully the private sector will see it in their capability, their business plans to be able to do the same.”
Mr Turnquest went on to note, “Normally the private sector takes its cues from the government so hopefully they would be encouraged to follow suit but we do not want to provide disincentives for people to hire, for people to continue to invest and grow their business.”