Ronald Thwaites | Is so it set
'Paulette' is a single mother living in a rent yard in the inner city. She has two teenage daughters and a younger son. She works as a domestic helper, earning $7,500 a week or $30,000 each month.
One of the children's fathers gives her a small money when she sees him or when she sends the child to him. It is never regular. She uses it to throw a little partner and to try to contribute to a small group life insurance scheme in her church. "I do not want to die and leave the children with nothing," she reasons.
Up to March this year, Paulette was paying $6,500 for rent. Light and water are supposed to be close to $4,000, but that just can't pay every month. More than $10,000 per month goes on bus and taxi fares for the four family members. The rest, about $100 a day each, goes for food - rice, likkle oats, cabbage, sugar, flour, small soup meat or chicken back, and a few canned products.
"But now everything raise up again," she laments. I checked the new prices she has written down. To obtain the same meagre goods and services, she needs at least $33,600 - 20 per cent more than before. Where is it to come from?
Paulette is unimpressed about the promise of doubling the minimum wage because her pay is already above it and her employers, pensioners in Kingston 6, have hinted that they might have to cut down her days. They are hard-pressed, too.
She pleads for a summer job for the two teenagers so that they will not be idle and prone to trouble during the dreaded, long vacation. And maybe they would get lunch money and bus fare.
They used to get PATH lunch at school, but it has stopped because many days they couldn't get to go.
"You can give me a farm work card or sponsor me to get one visa?"
In our work, you meet people like Paulette every day. When will the 'process of prosperity' which we prate about in Gordon House reach her? When will the IMF and the Economic Growth Council reach her issues? Why vote anyway, and who for?
She never get no $18,000. All she get is the headache to pay for others to get. When is her time going to come?
Every day that the Jamaican dollar depreciates against the US currency, Paulette's life gets more precarious. At her level, more indirect taxes lick hottest because of her unavoidably high propensity to consume and her inevitable heavy reliance on products and services with high import content.
Not only do prices keep rising because of crawling devaluation, but when the dollar moves, as it has recently, from $128:1 to 129.28, a further $14 billion is added to our cost of repaying the portion of the national debt that we have borrowed in foreign currency.
Hardly anyone notices until it is time to raise the taxes to pay the bill. And the importation of every kind of bauble and bangle from abroad continues, from luxury cars to false hair, at the same time as the value of our merchandise exports declines.
Paulette and her kind will have to foot most of the bill. They always have - since the days when their labour was extracted to make the empire prosper.
"Is so it set," she says. Really?
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.