Random Thoughts
August 12, 2022
Thinking about the Sufferers and the Cost of Living

“… Sufferers don’t care who from country
Sufferers don’t care who from town
Sufferers only want to know
Where de next food coming from.” – Black Stalin

The rising prices for goods and services is clearly a problem for most Vincentians. In effect, our spending power has dropped significantly.

The value of a dollar in 2019 is now worth less than 85 cents for some. For those of us who are working, think of it as if we got a huge salary cut. To amplify, if your monthly salary is, say $1,500, your effective earnings would have dropped to approximately $1,275, compared with where you were three years ago – that is, if your monthly commitments and lifestyle activities have remained more or less the same and that you got no wage increase since.

Cost of Living and our style of living

To clarify further, if you have a car and you are traveling from Campden Park, Barrouallie or Prospect to Kingstown to go to work; if you are accustomed to using electric kettles, microwave ovens, washing machines and a clothes iron in a house of five or six persons ; if you are accustomed to going to the vegetable market to buy your vegetables and fruits, you are effectively poorer than you were three years before. If this looks like your normal life, then yes, the value of your money has dropped quite noticeably. But you do know this already.

You may be accustomed to saving “a lil’ something” at a credit union, on a monthly basis. Now there is pressure on your account. What about settling your debt? –the loan at the credit union, you “beg ah borrow” from a family member. They want it back but they may not remind you. After all, they are under pressure too. Here is a big one – You are feeling a sharp, stabbing pain in your chest that keeps coming and going. You are a diabetic and also hypertensive. But you just can’t afford to buy the medicine or to pay for the lab tests. This is “sufferation”! That’s what we used to call it.

Who are the sufferers?

In this case, who have been hit the hardest? I guess almost everybody would put up their hands.

We have special concern for the unemployed of course, as well as those getting public assistance, those who are pensioners, those workers who are not likely to get a wage increase or even a ‘semi-COLA’, not forgetting the struggling informal entrepreneur. It is tough for them.

It is tough for others as well. The thing is though, I am only hearing a few muffled screams for help. Or am I out of touch and mistaken?

The effect of the Covid stimulus programmes adopted by the U.S. and UK governments I think that the stimulus programmes adopted by many governments to help combat the economic situation brought on by Covid, though insufficiently targeted, was necessary under the circumstances. A possible economic meltdown was the alternative result.

Having said so, the stimulus programme in the USA for instance, along with the supply chain issues that resulted from Covid, the war in Ukraine, and acts of some unchecked greedy oil companies, helped to trigger the rise in prices there and thus radiating to gas and food- importer countries like SVG.

The US government paid out six trillion dollars to institutions and to its citizens, Regarding the latter, a non-productive lifestyle was subsidized, in many instances, of persons who got cash to spend on home repairs, furniture and other such stuff, while surfing the internet all day.

As soon as the living restrictions were lifted, the Americans, the British and others, opted to spend as if they were making up for one or two lost years. We imported the consequence.

What’s Next

Firstly, we have to adjust our lifestyle. Grow vegetables in the backyard. Eat at home more. I am sorry for the restaurants, but I will have to patronize them less, not unless they could find a way to reduce prices. I am going to stay away from certain fast foods – in any event, too much sodium isn’t good for me and I don’t know what is in the secret recipes.

Secondly, I will buy more food items that are produced here. If I could go directly to the farmer to get my produce and to the condiment maker to get my pepper sauce, I would do so, for now. There are too many steps and too much cost in the local distribution chain – $10.00 for two tomatoes?!!!

Thirdly, my ageing Toyota will have to cover far less miles-, to and from work, an early morning swim, the occasional run to the supermarket or to look for my farmer friends. There will be no unnecessary visits, nor no unnecessary detours for me.

Lastly, I look forward to hearing of the Ministry of Finance’s and the ECCB’s latest edition of a “quantitative easing” programme that would keep inflation in check and have us suffer less. I believe in the ability of the Minister of Finance and his team. I await their word.