While claiming that his government has been sharing contracts in order to put food in more contractors’ mouths, Premier Dr D Orlando Smith also bragged that many residents have seen an improved quality of life since the minimum wage was increased last October.
“I am not aware of any business that has had to close up shop because we raised the minimum wage. But I can point to about 800 of our fellow residents who today benefit from an increased wage that is allowing them to live with a bit more dignity and ease,” said Premier Smith who also is the minister of finance.
His government last year sanctioned the minimum wage increase, which is from $4 per hour to $6.
Premier Smith, in a statement covering various issues, said the increase was appropriate.
“A $6 per hour minimum wage is appropriate, given the cost of living in the BVI, and it is entirely manageable for our local businesses given the state of the economy,” he said.
“I appreciate the concerns of businesses trying to manage their labour costs. But I am equally concerned about the worker who must feed his family, put a roof over his head, and pay the bills.”
“These actions were long overdue. They reflect this government’s vision at its very best – modernising our policies, ensuring our competitiveness by improving our facilities, and making sure the blessings of our territory create real value for our people,” added Premier Smith.
While further promoting his administration as one that is ‘for the people,’ Premier Smith yesterday denied claims by the Opposition that his government is involved in contract splitting.
Effectively, contract splitting is dividing a single contract into smaller ones to avoid scrutiny from Government watchdogs such as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is headed by Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie.
“My government is not engaged in contract splitting. We are not trying to avoid any processes, scrutiny, or controls… Rather, in some instances, we have engaged as many contractors as we could on some projects in order to provide employment opportunities for them,” Premier Smith continued.
“Our goal is altruistic, we are not engaged in any untoward practices. The paperwork is there to support this. We are simply trying to put bread on the table and food in the mouths of our people.”
“In some instances, certain projects that do not involve significant risks – but which could be accomplished by our very skilled artisans and contractors at relatively low sums, better serves the interest of the territory, our residents and their families if they were done in this manner,” Premier Smith further argued.
Meanwhile, the Opposition leader, Fahie, has claimed that it is almost impossible for persons to live decently in the territory as a result of the skyrocketing cost of living.
“[I call for] urgent actions to be taken by the minister of finance to address the significant, uncontrolled increase in the cost of living in the BVI. It is now almost impossible to live decently in the BVI due to this factor,” Fahie said a few days ago. “Families are catching hell. Single mothers are doing their best to make ends meet but cannot, because of the many poor financial decisions being made by leadership.”
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