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Jul 5, 2022

A Five-dollar Minimum Wage; What Does it Mean in a Time of Inflation?

Belizeans across the country eagerly anticipated the month of July to find out when and how the five-dollar minimum wage would be implemented. It’s a campaign promise that the Briceño administration is seeking to make good on, almost two years after taking office. While the new threshold hasn’t been brought into force just yet, work is being done by a government-appointed taskforce to come up with a formula that works for both employers and employees in the private and public sectors. It is expected that the strategy will be completed by November. But how impactful is a minimum wage adjustment in the face of a crushing inflation?  We begin our newscast tonight with a look at what the Ministry of Labor is trying to achieve and how the private sector is preparing for the gradual changes.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

It has been a little over ten years since the government-mandated minimum wage was last adjusted. In the intervening time, Belizeans have had to grapple with shifting economic realities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ever-increasing cost of living.  Ahead of the general elections in November 2020, the People’s United Party included in its Plan Belize manifesto a proposed change to the lowest remuneration that employers can legally pay their workers.


Valentino Shal

Valentino Shal, CEO, Ministry of Labor

“The proposal is looking at a national minimum wage. This means it applies across the board to everyone whether public or private, and so, the idea is that after this there should be no one being paid less than five dollars.”


The Government of Belize is the largest single employer; however, work, much like economic development, is largely driven by the private sector.  The business community is represented by a few organizations, including the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As it stands, the price floor below which employees may not sell their labor is three dollars and thirty cents.


Marcello Blake, President, BCCI

“The chamber continues to advocate for looking at a formula-driven approach where it allows for automatic triggers or specific elements that move outside of certain parameters to then force a review at least.  And so, that then allows for that minimum wage change to occur in a more timely manner.”


On November 25th, 2021, Cabinet requested that the Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labor and Local Government develop a plan for the gradual implementation of government’s commitment to a five-dollar minimum wage.  It begins with a consultation process that will be overseen by a Minimum Wage Task Force and will take into consideration the economic realities mentioned previously.


Valentino Shal

“We have to take into account the prevailing realities of the macro environment, macroeconomic environment and we need people who are skilled to be able to assess and analyze that and to advise the taskforce that we have and then for the taskforce then to advise the ministry on what is the best course of action.”


In the coming weeks, the Minimum Wage Task Force and PPF Capital Belize Limited will hold countrywide consultations with key stakeholders and the public, after which a Plan for the Gradual Implementation of the Five-dollar Minimum Wage will be submitted.  The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry is represented within that working group.


Marcello Blake

“We have a seat at the table to be able to help inform what that final decision is.”


Whatever that outcome is, it has to take into consideration higher prices for goods and services, as well as the sharp decrease in the purchasing power of money.


Marcello Blake

“While we look at it, we appreciate that there has to be a liveable wage and of course that has to be tied into productivity as well, and we recognize that there’s quite a lot that’s been going up and I think everybody can recognize the inflation in many areas: housing, transportation, food items.  And so, obviously there has to be a balanced approach in how do we get to that improvement in the liveable wage side of things but also ensure that the businesses can adjust to those impacts.”


It is government’s intention to conclude the process within the next five months.


Valentino Shal

“All of this we hope to have wrapped up by November of this year and so, our commitment is to have it done before the end of the year and so our target date is November of this year.  Just so you are aware, there is a ministerial committee, an inter-ministerial committee or a subcommittee of the Cabinet that is overseeing this process, working along with our minister, of course, and through the Labor Department we are working with private, civil society and union stakeholders to ensure that we do a thorough job in preparing this and getting it through.”


Isani Cayetano For News Five


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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