The recently released preliminary results of the labor survey conducted in November 2018 confirm that the government has failed to adequately incentivize the private sector and stimulate the economy to put a dent on unemployment figures within our nation. Our people are suffering under an administration that failed to prepare for governance while in opposition and assumed office without an economic growth plan.
Despite the touted boom in the tourism sector and publicized record number of arrivals in 2018, it is apparent that this has not translated into sufficient jobs for the Bahamian people during the referenced period. The true state of the economy is further worsened when the loss of high paying jobs in the financial services industry and the level of underemployment is factored into the equation.
There is no empathy for an administration that has done little to alleviate the suffering of the masses and refused to implement deliberate policies aimed at economic empowerment of our people. On the contrary, the current administration has increased the rate of taxation within a regressive tax system that burdens the less privileged and middle class. Bahamians may recall that the DNA had warned that the 60% increase in the Value Added Tax rate to 12% would impact investor and consumer confidence while threatening the job security of Bahamians.
The government of blunders has invested millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds in a dilapidated hotel and passed a Commercial Enterprise Act without anything to show for these initiatives. It is inconceivable that the recent voluntary separation exercise at the Grand Lucayan will increase unemployment in Grand Bahama which will be reflected in the May 2019 figures unless the current trend is reversed.
At a time when economists are predicting an imminent slowdown in the global economy and a recession by 2020, the private sector will remain challenged to create enough jobs to absorb new entrants into the labor market. The International Monetary Fund’s estimation that The Bahamas needs 5.5% economic growth to absorb all new entrants into the Bahamian workforce and to cut existing jobless rates in half will continue to be unattainable until the government develops and communicates an economic growth plan.
Political rhetoric and spinning of obvious facts are not helpful to the plight of struggling Bahamians who live the reality of an increase in the unemployment rate from 9.9% in May 2017 to 10.7% in November 2018.
Surviving under a budget of hardship and an increase in the cost of living, the increase in the unemployment rate from 10.1% to 11% on New Providence is significant seeing that the capital accounts for 70% of the employed labor force. This rise far outweighs the minimal decrease in unemployment in Grand Bahama and modest fall in Abaco.
The released statistics show that the government continues to fail the youth of our nation as unemployment within this important category stood at 23.1% in November 2018 when compared to 20.1% in May 2017. The unemployment rate among women was 11.3% when compared to 10% among men; evidence of the lack of any specific focus on economic empowerment of our people.
While we laud the spirit of entrepreneurship of our people, the 11.9% increase in self-employed persons between May 2018 and November 2018 could also be attributed to the softening of the jobs market and Bahamians resorting to starting their own businesses to make ends meet.
In total, the unemployed labor force has increased to 25,135 in November 2018 from 21,880 in May 2017 showing a further deterioration in this important statistic. This is despite an increase in the government’s recurrent expenditure from a projected $2.1B for 2017/18 to an estimated $2.6B for 2018/19 and a rise in capital expenditure from a projected $233M in 2017/18 to approximately $300M for 2018/19. It is apparent that only the government and its loyalists are feeling the policies of this administration.
We maintain that deliberate actions, steps and initiatives have to be undertaken to achieve the desired and target growth levels. This must entail a combination of fiscal, monetary and economic policies as well as social reforms. It is simply reckless and irresponsible to leave this to chance, luck or coincidence.
On behalf of the Bahamian people, we petition the government to get its act together and implement an articulated economic growth plan or vacate office. There is too much at stake and our people have been suffering for too long.