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The Royal Gazette asked members of our Readers’ Forum how they have been affected by the rising cost of living in Bermuda. If you want to join our forum, e-mail jdeacon@royalgazette.bmI accepted the call for everyone to pull together and make sacrifices, such as wage freezes or ‘Buy Bermuda’, but have yet to see a demonstrable effort from the business community to reciprocate. I consider my household to be both smart and frugal, however, I find myself working with a diminishing income stream but increasing expenses for what I term the essentials, namely:

Danny Matthews

Housing — although the banks pay me no interest on my savings, they perversely keep borrowing rates high thereby forcing me to defer the purchase of big ticket items as I strive to maintain mortgage payments; Electricity — I have reduced usage by over 10 percent but my bill has increased by 44 percent; Insurances — whether it be house (required by the banks), car (required by law) or health (an absolute necessity), I find the annual increases in premiums to be crippling; Education — accepting the failure of the public school system I save wherever I can to meet the increasing fees; and finally, FOOD — where once $250 would fill the weekly shopping trolley, now it is closer to $500.

To make ends meet we cut back on groceries and have all but ceased treating ourselves to eating out or making discretionary ‘feel good’ purchases in the local shops. What little I can save is earmarked for a family vacation abroad or set aside to ensure a treat for my child’s birthday or Christmas. After all, you need something to look forward too. Although I know I fare better than some other households, I feel that as the pressure continues to build on my household finances I find myself looking for other areas to cut back, such as internet access or cable TV. This is not living, it is merely existing.

A reader who asked not to be named

Inflation on goods are really very high! I have to monitor everything that I buy. Simple every day things like soap and toothpaste have gone through the roof.

A loaf of bread which is an essential when making lunch is almost $6! Then there is gas for my car. Once upon a time $25 half filled my tank if I was low, and I have a small car — Class B. Not anymore it just about gets to half way mark!

My family and I have a sharing mechanism going on. We would buy wholesale and share. This is only but one of the ways to cope. Wholesale has even gotten out of hand. When you compare the prices, are you really saving anything? It helps by buying in bulk in order to share it out. I have tried by reducing my internet to go a different route, but either way you do it something else will cost you. A simple phone bill that should be next to nothing because I don’t have all the features is like $36+ a month! Ridiculous! You call and ask how many calls are free calls and they don’t give you a “set amount” answer and after the “set amount” you are charged per call after that! So a little $30 something bill gets blown out of proportion.

I have tried unplugging the water heater, but my daughter who is now looking for a job and can’t find one is home most days, so that is a discouragement in regards to light bill. The fuel costs sometimes is more than my actual usage. Go figure. If Belco would work more with people in regards to their discount you will find a lot of people may be more acceptable.

Insurance is another issue. Why is it that the insurance companies get to increase their rates when everyone else is told to freeze on this or that? Every April without fail you can guarantee insurance will increase.

On top of all of this, I have not had a raise due to the economy in the last two years. So when everything goes up, my pay reduces in comparison.

Marti Chiappa

My husband and I are both retired, thus on fixed incomes and with the continued prices rising with every cargo shipment that arrives on Island, without a doubt is being felt. True, much of the costs are beyond Government’s control since the price increases are generated from the supplier, but with the added insult of the Government’s increased duty on personal purchases, it makes it increasingly impossible to shop. The added duty is to encourage us to ‘Buy Bermuda’. With so many businesses closing and/or the lack of choice or inventory, the products that are seen advertised overseas and often totally inaccessible on Island.

Then there is Future Care which is a huge concern since the price has just increased. Bad enough that the second group to be added to the system had to pay double that of the initial group, there is nothing either fair nor logical with the way Future Care is being handled. With being on a fixed income, the expenditures are ever increasing and taking over the receivables.

Unfortunately due to huge wastage in Government spending over the past decade, Bermuda is in much worst state that she ever needed to be. Government now has no money, in fact is a billion-plus dollars in debt! How could this happen is a short 13/14 years? One hears the pundits on the talk shows with their comments of how the entire world is in recession, so we are simply feeling the effects like everyone else. That thinking is making excuses for an incompetent, wasteful, arrogant Government who did not take heed of the signs of a global recession and continued to spend with no regard for the future. Well, the future is here and now we are being nickel and dime to try to glean funds from wherever.

In order to gain votes, the PLP implemented perks that they are now backing out of because of being desperate for funds to put into the coffers. Of one thing certain, before the end of this year; we will see the effects globally of how bad the economy is. With the state of Bermuda’s debt already, there is no buffer for that truly difficult period to come.

Pat FergusonI am one of the lucky ones who is self-sufficient — but if the situation that we are presently dealing with here in Bermuda takes another drastic downturn, I could very easily end up being one of the unfortunates.

My concern is for the families who have lost their earning power because of job lay-off etc and my heart goes out to them. I, as a single person, shudder every time I go to the supermarket simply because the price of food has gone through the ceiling. I question the prices that seem to go up every week, but of course, I get the same old answers … the cost of bringing food in. I also have concern for the single mother who has three or four mouths to feed, along with rent and all of the other necessary monthly expenses. How does this person do it? How is this person and her family able to survive? We are already hearing horror stories of people’s electricity being cut off, so what’s next? Are people going to be put out in the streets because they can’t pay their rent? We are in a very precarious situation here and Government cannot afford financial assistance to everyone that loses their employment. Let’s face it, this Government can’t afford to sustain itself unless that is, they borrowed money to do so, and we all know that is an alarming factor because we are already facing that unbelievable debt of $1 billion plus and still rising which we will not be able to pay off in a hundred years.

I personally know what a job loss can mean to someone as my daughter who lives in the US was out of work for 22 months. This was the most depressing time for her and for me, because I could feel her pain. I know the pain of talking to my daughter and have her cry because she felt so helpless in her situation and this went on for almost two years. If one has never been there, they really don’t know the mental agony that person is suffering, and yet unemployed and mentally stressed, the mortgage and bills have to be paid. The stress of being out or work for so long really took a toll on her, and because she is my daughter, it took its toll on me. I am happy to say that two months before her unemployment compensation ran out, she found the job that was tailor-made for her. Some people aren’t that lucky they are still looking.

One thing I would like to say is, since these are very hard and trying times for some families and the prices keep going up, why doesn’t Government lift the duty on nutritional foods including fruits and vegetables, and raise the duty on junk food, liquor and cigarettes? People have to eat to survive and to think of children going to school without a good breakfast is criminal to say the least. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think Bermuda would come to this sorry state, and all in just a few short years. My story is not a horror story, but some I hear are!

A reader who asked not to be named

There is the feeling of uncertainty that is permeating Bermuda. The loss of jobs, cut backs, businesses closing or moving out of Bermuda, a decrease in the number of visitors and the ones that do come you wonder what they will find to do when they get here. Prices are rising and yet the quality isn’t keeping up.

The increase of our Belco bill comes to mind first affecting our high cost of living. Now that a fuel adjustment has been added to our bill we are paying almost half in addition to what we use to pay. Even with a timer on the hot water heater and unplugging electrical items when not in use, my bill is averaging over $450 a month! That’s for a two-bedroom house. And when I called Belco asking if they would come and check why the cost is so high I’m told I would now have to pay for that service.

Don’t talk about the cost of fuel for a car or bike. It doesn’t make sense that we pay so much when we get our gas from a country that sells it the cheapest.

It’s also expensive to eat in Bermuda and to eat healthy costs even more which is why we have started a garden with the hopes of offsetting our grocery bill and to have available fresh, quality produce.

This recession has also hit the small-business man. My son is self-employed and this is the first time since starting out that he is getting very little work and is barely hanging on and yet finds no other options to work elsewhere. What is someone to do if they lose their jobs? Who will help them?

Can we look towards a better Bermuda? Someone told me that Bermuda hasn’t seen it this bad since 1929! That’s the date when the stock market crashed in the US and the Great Depression began. In 1932 in the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt won by a landslide against Herbert Hoover and instituted unprecedented programmes for relief, recovery and reform and brought about a major realignment of American politics. Can we have that hope with the OBA? I say we need to give them the chance. We must give them a chance as Bermuda cannot possibly survive as we do now. We are sinking fast and won’t recover unless something is done now.

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Published April 20, 2012 at 11:25 am (Updated April 20, 2012 at 11:25 am)

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