By Jullie Yap Daza
My household budget is small because it’s a small household. I thought I could jump the TRAIN tracks with my few wants and needs until we were told by a labor union that the purchasing power of minimum wage earners has been eroded by 6 percent. Effectively, a (nominal) daily minimum wage of P329.35 is now worth P210.
I earn more than the minimum wage, but as expenditures rise according to income, it stands to reason that my purchasing power has been eroded by much more than 6pc. Shopping at the supermarket last week, I was astonished to discover that my average bill had jumped by nearly 30 percent. Imagine if my income would, could, or should rise by as much!
The statistics don’t tell us how consumers are coping. Retailers are afraid to post price increases as such, so what do they do? They serve smaller portions, like those restaurants that have switched to smaller plates and shallower bowls, or they use cheaper ingredients (e.g., pechay instead of watercress). When I ordered a “super” serving of halo-halo at the neighborhood snack shop, I could’ve fallen off my seat – the halo-halo was priced at P180, 30 percent more expensive, aggravated by the absence of two ingredients, and a topping of only half a scoop of ice cream. I could’ve screamed but for fear of being poisoned next time I eat there.
The promise of TRAIN, as far as we non-accountants can figure out, will be fulfilled in the big-ticket items in the form of lower income and property taxes. A friend who is in the process of selling her house was elated to learn that instead of the quarter of a million that she’d be paying, TRAIN’s 6 percent tax on zonal value has cut the amount by P100,000.
My needs and wants are small, such as one vitamin pill a day, at P20 apiece — until the pharmacist said I could buy the same maintenance drug for P2 per pill, “Generics lang po.” There was no need for her to apologize, on top of which she was nice enough to teach me a little math, that I would need two pills or P4 a day to match the potency of the branded P20 pill. By such aha! ways do we cope.