The Daily Herald – Way Overdue

Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley, in a rather terse statement on Monday, said he intended to index the minimum wage for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. He mentioned receiving councils of the Economic and Social Council SER and have signed up.

Exactly how much hasn’t been announced, but since no adjustments to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) have apparently been made in all this time, this is a cumulative increase – wouldn’t that be retroactive – and therefore meaningful. On the other hand, the minimum hourly rate was already low compared to the cost of living on the island even before that.

It is therefore difficult to oppose the increase in the lowest statutory salary, despite legitimate concerns about the local tourist economy still affected by the coronavirus crisis. Many businesses continue to struggle, with the peak season coming to an end and another tough summer ahead.

The recovery is well underway, although due to rising inflation, the Central Bank recently lowered forecast gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 0.3% for this year. While it’s still projected at 14.3%, keep in mind there was a drop of more than 20% at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Average occupancy rates at hotels and timeshare resorts were 71% and 73% respectively in February. However, that was based on 3,217 rooms, or about 81% of pre-Hurricane Irma inventory.

Last year, staycation arrivals were up 134% from 2020, but remained at 78% of their 2019 level. Cruise ship passenger numbers totaled 47% less than the previous year and a recovery of 14% compared to 2019.

There is therefore a long way to go in difficult circumstances, with the full impact of the war in Europe on prices yet to be felt. The latter can also be seen as an additional reason to protect the lowest incomes.

Truth be told, this step is way overdue and definitely a necessity for those involved.

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