Last month, the Ministry of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labour, and Local Government sent out a press release to note that they are gradually moving the needle on the implementation of 5 dollar-an-hour minimum wage.

A Minimum Wage Task Force was appointed by the Ministry on March 3rd, and shortly after they were appointed, the Ministry then issued a Call for proposals both locally and internationally for a consultant. They received four proposals from interested organizations, and on June 15, the Minimum Wage Taskforce conducted interviews for the consultancy position. They selected PPF Capital Belize as the consultant on the implementation of the minimum wage.

The Minimum Wage Taskforce and PPF Capital Belize Limited is supposed to hold countrywide consultations with key stakeholders and the public on this issue. We have confirmed with officials from the Labour Ministry that these public consultations have not begun as yet, even though seven weeks have passed since PPF Capital Belize was selected as the consultant on the minimum wage issue.

Via WhatsApp, CEO Valentino Shal told us this evening quote, "We are in the process of completing the procurement of the specialist. [There is] not much to share on the consultation as that has not started as yet." End quote.

Now that's a whole lotta foot dragging and talk shops - just to get people paid what is hardly a living wage in inflationary times.

So, what's the real holdup?

We asked one of the stakeholders that will be giving input to advise the Taskforce, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The president of the Chamber's Executive Council shared the private sector's views on the best course of action to assess how living wages should be assessed based on the cost of living:

Marcello Blake - President, BCCI Executive Council
"Our position hasn't changed. It remains that a formula, we feel, has to be put in place because, at the end of the day, there has to be predictability in the way minimum wage is adjusted. It has been some time since the last adjustment, and so it's important that it not be a political decision but more one that's triggered by specific changes in the way people are living. And so, the elements that we've suggested include consideration for GDP, includes consideration for productivity, and the Consumer Price Index. So there are several elements, and it's agreeing to what those triggers need to be so that at the end of the day, if it is that we need to review that every three or four years, that it's done in a more timely basis. And it's also then hopefully in bite sizes rather than the large increases that we've seen that's been proposed, I should say, based on the move to the five dollars."

Daniel Ortiz
"So, sir, has there been any sort of maybe negative reaction from your constituents within the business community to this increase? And can you explain the reasons behind them, if there are any?"

Marcello Blake
"There is always a bit of pushback. No business is willing to just accept an increase because that then converts into an increased cost of doing business for any small business or medium-sized business and definitely large businesses. And so, at the end of the day, it's important that we continue to consult our members who have concerns because, obviously, it increases the cost of doing business. But on the flip side, we also appreciate and understand that a livable wage is something that's important. So it's where do we strike the balance in order to ensure that you can address the livable wage side of things, but also not necessarily stifling or to the detriment of other businesses for us to continue to create the employment that we do as well."

Daniel Ortiz
"Can you give us examples where maybe views have been brought up that, look, if you implement this $5 minimum wage right now, this is how our wage bill increases at the end of the year?"

Marcello Blake
"Well, you know how we are. We are not very open to sharing the numbers, but the key thing there is the rippling effect that we are considering. So the minimum wage change from $3.30 to $5 is one move. But then, you have those who you've employed because of their qualifications or their skill sets, and so you're paying them slightly higher than minimum wage. So when you move that person that's making $3.30 to $5, then there's an anticipation that if I'm at $5, then shouldn't I move up? And so those impacts are the impacts that our business community players are looking to analyze to ensure that, in fact, they can still continue to create the jobs that they are and maintain those staff complements that they do have currently."

Channel 7