A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic and social indicators show a deepening of the social and economic crisis. People being forced to cut back on how much they eat to more beggars on the street to children unable to travel to school because of limited funds are all symptoms of the crisis.
A student who lives in Kelly Village and who is affected by rising taxi fares as well messaged a teacher about her predicament.
“Hey, miss…Did you know that the transportation have (sic) raise prices…it’s like $15 to get out of Kelly now. I might not be in school for a while.” And this is just one situation highlighted.
Kiss Company raised prices on some of their products, the Port-of-Spain to Chaguanas Taxi Association raised fares, the Route Two Maxi association as also signalled that they will raise their fares, KC Candy, the nation’s top candy manufacturer also announced that from October 1 their product prices will increase among increases in other areas of the economy.
The official statistics have confirmed the fears of the population.
The Central Bank (CBTT) last Thursday attributed higher food inflation to increased shipping costs, transportation delays, and adverse weather conditions which have “led to a discernible increase in food prices.”
“The latest information from the Central Statistical Office shows that food inflation (year-on-year) rose from 3.2 per cent in January to 4.9 per cent in July 2021,” the Central Bank said in its latest Monetary Policy Report.
Core inflation (which excludes food items) remained relatively contained at 1.6 per cent in July 2021, with headline inflation measuring 2.2 per cent, but these could rise further in coming months in light of recently announced increases in transportation fares, the Central Bank stated.
‘I feel like I’m going into survival mode’
Jason, who preferred not to give his surname, uses public transportation to get to work in Port-of-Spain. He told the Sunday Guardian that he was not sure he can continue to work in Port-of-Spain for much longer as travelling from Chaguanas to the capital city every day has become much more expensive.
He believes that the taxi drivers between Port-of-Spain to Chaguanas are not justified in raising their fares by so much.
“This going to affect me in a big way. I work for a little above minimum wage and this means from now almost my whole salary will be going in travelling. I travel from Cunupia to Jerningham Junction, then a maxi to Chaguanas then I take a car to Port-of-Spain. With this new increase, I’ll be spending $60 a day in travelling.”
He said with the cost of living going up and dependants to feed every month, he does not know how he will survive.
“I feel as if I just working to pay passage and reach to work. Everything is raising except our salaries. I feel as if I’m just going into survival mode. I have all these bills to pay and mouths to feed.”
To survive, he said he was looking for extra streams of income.
“I surviving by the grace of God and I have a few things I do on the side to earn extra money. This is in the field of graphic design services. I have no other choice. For anybody to survive, a normal person must have two jobs. How else people going to survive?” he asked.
‘I’m cutting back to make ends meet’
Sandra, who preferred not to give her surname, said that she has a small catering business and that has been reduced drastically over the last years.
Now she has a smaller income and to make matters worse, the cost of living is increasing.
“I used to prepare food and sell the entire week, now I sell just on weekends as most people cut back on eating outside and are preparing their own meals. Over the last few months, I saw prices of flour, rice, and sugar rise. So I have less money and prices are going up from the grocery to maintaining my car to every part of my life.”
Sandra said she has a seven-year-old daughter who does online classes and she has to find money to pay the internet bill, she was forced to buy a new tablet, and she has even had to cut back on the number of items she buys in the supermarket.
“I used to have cable, I cut back on that, I now buy fewer food items in the supermarket…to try to save money.”
Sandra is not optimistic that the cost of living will improve any time soon and remains pessimistic about the future.
“I know some people who even had to cut back on their meals daily as that’s what they’re doing to survive. Others have to sell off some of their personal items to survive. It really hard out here. It’s pressure for poor people. This really depressing.”
Prices will continue to rise, stretch your dollar
Reacting to the deepening crisis of rising prices and plummeting standards of living, economists have called on the population to stretch their dollar as they brace for more hardship. The years of plenty are long gone and the country must adapt to the lean times, the economists have advised.