In recent years, the cost of living has been steadily increasing, placing a significant strain on people’s wallets. Rising expenses, ranging from housing and education to healthcare and daily necessities, have created financial challenges for individuals and families alike, leaving the poor behind.
In an effort to tackle this problem, the government has implemented a few measures to help alleviate the current financial strains.
Last week, the Cabinet announced that they “agreed on more targeted actions to support the most vulnerable populations affected by food price inflation.” For details on said initiatives, the Reporter reached out to Minister of Minister of Human Development, Families & Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Dolores Balderamos, who explained that the government has been implementing measures since the start of the year to help the most vulnerable.
Under her ministry, three measures have been taken. The “Grocery Bag” program has increased the number of bags offered to each constituency. Each bag offers basic food and home items, and has an estimated value of $80.00. According to Balderamos, area representatives do try to give the bags to the poorest of the poor under this program.
The list of food basket items has also increased. Under this initiative, prices are regulated by the government, only allowing for a 15% markup in price. This service is being done with the cooperation of private business owners and in coordination with the Chamber of Commerce. The list of items offered is limited to basic need items and covers the lower-priced goods in stores.
“This is a big move by government,” said Balderamos. “These items are price regulated, not fully priced controlled as are rice, and beans, and sugar... Price regulated in that they only have a 15% mark up so that things like peanut butter, tuna and things like corn flakes are covered, as are petroleum jelly and feminine napkins... We have done a tremendous amount of work this year alone.”
The price-regulated items are also being policed to ensure that price gouging is not being practiced. The Supplies Control Unit, within the Ministry of Agriculture, is tasked with monitoring the list of items under this program and ensuring that businesses stick to the regulated price.
Minister Balderamos admitted that the process has not been a smooth one, with the Chamber pushing back on the government’s initiative. “Government has said it will do this on an as needed basis and it is not a permanent measure. It is a measure to see how it can work and bring down the cost of living for the most vulnerable,” said Balderamos.
She also noted the continuation of the BOOST program, which offers a small cash stipend to poor households, provided they meet certain conditions. Under this program, mothers who ensure their children have 85% school attendance and are fully vaccinated can get financial assistance in the form of cash. Unusual circumstances, such as funerals and fires are also covered under this program.
Other initiatives taken by government to help the poor, includes increasing the minimum wage to $5.00. Although this initiative does not fall under her ministry, the Minister was quick to note that raising the minimum wage goes a long way in ensuring that the poor have more purchasing power.
Consumers should note that price-regulated items should have reasonable price tags on them. If price gouging is suspected, they are encouraged to call the Ministry of Agriculture and report the store and items to the Supplies Control Unit for investigation.