In the midst of growing poverty and hardship in Trinidad and Tobago, the government must as a matter of priority raise the minimum wage to at least $25 per hour and couple this with the removal of Value Added Tax on all food items.
The current minimum wage is not a livable wage. At $17.50 per hour over a 40-hour work week, this works out to $2800 dollars per month. This amount is less than the old age pension maximum of $3000 per month.
A working man or woman cannot sustain a proper quality of life at the current minimum wage rate. A minimum wage of at least $25 per hour over a 40-hour work week will translate to at least $4000 monthly. While this will still need improving to become a livable wage as it is still not commensurate with the increases in the cost of living over the past seven years, it still makes accommodation for the plight of the business community who have also been under increasing pressure.
In the last eight years, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs while others are working on 2013 wages, resulting in their inability to properly feed their families, including the children and elderly. Many businesses have also folded due to lack of payments from government agencies, crime and inordinately long Covid regulations.
That disturbing reality is matched by continuous increases in the prices of food, with some items costing between 50 and 100 per cent more than they did in 2016. In addition, the costs of housing, transportation, food, medication, fuel and education have steadily risen while the minimum wage remains stagnant.
Against those troubling circumstances, the Government has an urgent responsibility to act and ease the financial burdens on our already stressed society.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition
27th September 2023