Social services expand social safety net as Bahamians in need of assistance rise by nearly 50% – Eye Witness News

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As the government marked an almost 50% increase in requests for assistance last month, Social Services Minister Obie Wilchcombe said the government was mobilizing as best it could to meet the needs Bahamians, who face an additional burden due to rising costs.

Asked to quantify the increase in the number of people seeking social services assistance, the minister said around 11,000 people applied for food, rent and medical assistance in January.

This figure rose to 17,000 in March, the minister confirmed.

Minister for Social Services Obie Wilchcombe

He said he was deeply concerned about the “escalating” levels of inflation affecting Bahamians and the impact on the poor and vulnerable.

Bahamians have faced rising costs for food, fuel and other expenses, with calls from some quarters for the government to take measures such as waiving Value Added Tax (VAT) on bread basket items and medications.

“Yes, in social services we make measurable decisions that will help people more, but yes, we are above it; we are aware and deeply concerned,” Wilchcombe told Eyewitness News outside the House of Assembly.

He continued: “We have seen a number of situations. We’re trying to find common ground and find ways to meet our people’s needs…so they don’t end up with the added problem of stress.

“So we try to be there and respond to it as quickly as possible. We see that there is an increase. It’s a reality. Our answer to that… will be coming very soon.

In its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts consumer prices will rise 7.3% this year, the largest annual percentage increase in inflation since the early 1990s. .

The unemployment rate remains in the Bahamas remains uncertain.

The IMF recently forecast that the country’s unemployment rate will continue to decline to 13.9% this year.

A labor force survey, which would provide this figure, has not been conducted for two years, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that the Bahamas National Institute of Statistics has undertaken the census of the population this year.

During a press briefing from the Prime Minister’s Office last week, Finance Secretary Simon Wilson acknowledged that in the absence of a job survey in the country, the number of unemployed Bahamians was not not clear.

Joel C. Hicks