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News Report: "Chamber chair urges caution on minimum wage"

Published by Khyle Quincy Parker, The Nassau Guardian, August 16th, 2022

Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) Chair Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson yesterday vowed that the BCCEC would use its seat on the National Tripartite Council to ensure that the increase in the minimum wage being contemplated by the government does not stifle economic growth in the country.

Speaking with The Nassau Guardian yesterday, Rutherford-Ferguson stressed that the private sector is not opposed to a “reasonable” increase in the minimum wage, but warned that the potential knock-on effects of “a material increase” might cost some workers to lose their jobs and drive some stakeholders out of business.

Last week, Labour Minister Keith Bell told The Nassau Guardian that the minimum wage is still being debated by Cabinet.

“There are several variables to consider, and there are several components that you can choose from in terms of which one you want to adopt. But there has to be widespread buy-in, not only by just government, but also by our social partners.”

The Davis administration promised to raise the minimum wage in its Blueprint for Change. Bell noted yesterday that the proposals include raising the minimum wage for public servants. Economic Affairs Minister Michael Halkitis has said the government could raise the minimum wage from $210 to $250 per week.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Rutherford-Ferguson stressed the need for caution with regard to implementing a new minimum wage, noting that it cannot be done in a vacuum.

“The first knock-on effect is that a material increase in the cost of labor will lead to inflation,” Rutherford-Ferguson said.

“It would lead to further inflation of the price of goods and services to the consumer, at a time when inflation is already high. Factors external to the business community and the country are what’s behind inflation, and this is being seen all over, not just here.”

The second knock-on effect to an increase in the minimum wage would be seen if the inevitable inflation is not tolerated well by the consumer, she said.

“If the consumer decides not to buy or dramatically reduces spending on goods and services, that will result in the downsizing of labor, further affecting the unemployment rate,” she said.