Minimum wage is $416 a month for those who work in the capital, $357 for those who live in Colon.
The end result according to statistics, is that 46% of the country lives below the poverty line.
How Panama Inflation is measured
The Panama equivalent to the consumer price index is called the “basic basket,” a fixed list of food staples for the most basic of diets for a small family.
The Feb 11, 2011 price for this basic basket is $285, leaving only $72-$131 for necessities like rent, light bill, transportation, etc.
That is a 15% increase in 12 months.
Other evidences of inflation
These are approximate numbers from observations and a recent article in the press.
- Gas prices are going up another .22c this weekend, 25% increase over last year.
- Government mandated prices for taxis and buses going up 20-25%.
- Even the price of potatoes has gone up 25% in two months.
- The coffee we buy for our house went up nearly 50% in price last month.
Inflation implications for ministry
For those on the margins, this inflation will magnify the margin and potentially increase the ranks of the poor.
But even moreso, inflation will increase the visible level of worry, preoccupation, and stress. People will adjust eventually, but with such dramatic price increases, particularly visible to those on the margins, conversations about such worries will happen.
What do these numbers look like?
Brenda overheard a man, presumably poor from his attire and demeanor, asking about the price of potatoes.
Shocked by the increase, Brenda heard him bemoan that the week before, he could buy 3 potatoes for .80c for his weekly food.
Now he can only buy 2 for his .80c and have a little change leftover.
Brenda heard his worry about food. He lives on the margins, and one potato makes a difference to his diet.
Who are we reaching?
In our church plant, most of those we are reaching will be earning more than minimum wage. Business owners and entrepenuers who are successful will earn more.
Many will have cars, nannys, and pimped out Blackberries.
However, inflation will provoke some worries, which are an insight into the soul and spiritual restlessness.
- Who is in charge?
- Will it end?
- Where will provision come from?
- How will we adjust?
- Can we afford . .. .. ?
In other places of the ministry, we minister alongside those who live on the margins. Churches that lack sufficient resources (read Not Enough Chickens). Pastors receive minimal offerings and often have to be tentmakers.
I’ve met pastors who are bus drivers, doctors, auto mechanics, etc, who are making ends meet by working a full time job tent making. They see the impact of inflationary pressures first hand.
For us, this creates an opportunity to speak to spiritual restlessness that inflationary pressures create. We can point people to
- the provision of God,
- the peace of God that passes understanding
- the presence of God with us in the midst of our challenges.
Pray that we’ll have many of these conversations in the next few months and that the Lord will use us to share His peace with people.