Grand Bahamians holding on to a glimmer of hope based on this resort have been placed on an emotional rollercoaster plagued with uncertainty and cloaked in political rhetoric. On the other hand, Bahamians are puzzled by the contradiction in the Government’s approach to the country’s fiscal predicament.
One year after the current administration assumed office, the economy remains challenged.
According to the preliminary results of the Labor Force Survey for May 2018 recently released by the Department of Statistics, there has been deterioration in macroeconomic indicators since this administration was elected.
While this is not surprising for a Government that lacks an economic growth plan, it is detrimental to Bahamians who continue to be disenfranchised and face significant hardship.
There is no need for political rhetoric in these serious times as the numbers tell the story.
In May 2017, the national unemployment rate was 9.9%. In May 2018, the unemployment rate was 10.0%.
In May 2017, the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama was 12.4%. In May 2018, the rate remains high at 12.4%.
In May 2017, the unemployment rate in Abaco was 7.8%. One year later, that rate has increased significantly to 10.7%.
In spite of the employment of thousands by Baha Mar over the past year, unemployment in New Providence remains effectively the same; falling merely from 10.4% to 10.0% in May 2018.
Youth unemployment has risen from 20.1% in May 2017 to a whopping 24.1% in May 2018.
The number of discouraged workers has risen from 1,925 in May 2017 to 2,175 in May 2018.
The unemployed labor force has increased to 23,190 in May 2018 from 21,880 in May 2017.
Government recurrent expenditure has increased from a projected $2.1B for 2017/18 to an estimated $2.6B for 2018/19.
Government capital expenditure has risen from a projected $233M in 2017/18 to approximately $300M for 2018/19.
These statistics show that in the absence of policy initiatives aimed at incentivizing the private sector, the economy has remained stagnant. The increase in the unemployment rate between May 2017 and November 2017 was attributed in part to the termination of 2,555 individuals from the public sector by the Government in a struggling economy. The May 2018 report suggests that there has been no correction to the labor market as the private sector has not created enough jobs to compensate for these losses and new entrants into the labor market.
Bahamians are waking up to the reality that electing a Government without a plan in general and an economic growth plan in particular has serious consequences. It is simply impossible to tax and borrow our way out of our fiscal predicament. Further, austerity without an accompanying plan to grow the economy could imperil the economic fortunes of a nation.
The recent labor force survey in May 2018 follows a significant employment drive by Baha Mar and what has been touted as a spectacular and record breaking first quarter for the tourism industry in The Bahamas. We can only imagine what the labor force survey would have shown had Baha Mar not been the main driver of economic activity since May 2017.
The IMF has been quoted as stating 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. Deliberate actions, steps and initiatives have to be undertaken to achieve the desired and target growth levels. It is reckless and irresponsible to leave this important policy making role of the Government to chance, luck or coincidence. The Bahamas needs a plan that will ensure sustainable economic growth and insulate the nation from external shocks. We join all Bahamians to implore the Government to produce and implement such a viable economic growth plan.
It should be noted that the dismal record of the Government on the economy was achieved prior to the implementation of a 60% increase in the Value Added Tax rate to 12%. The labor force survey took place between April and May of 2018. The VAT increase and other revenue measures which came into effect on July 1, 2018 are expected to impact investor and consumer confidence while threatening the job security of Bahamians. This targeted assault on a shrinking middle class and anticipated reduction in the disposable income of consumers could further dampen demand to the detriment of an already fragile economy.
Indeed, the numbers don't lie and Bahamians are saying what a difference a year makes. The Democratic National Alliance stands ready to assist the Government in developing an economic plan that will result in sustainable economic growth.
Arinthia S. Komolafe, Deputy Leader
Democratic National Alliance
The Democratic National Alliance was disheartened to hear about the termination of a group of hard working Bahamians attached to the Gaming Board. These firings are just the latest in a series of staff cuts which have taken place at government agencies around the country since the Minnis Administration took office. Some media estimates suggest that hundreds of jobs have been cut since May 10.
The DNA is fully aware that governing requires difficult decisions being made to right size the country’s economy, however, as part of its’ mandate, it is also the responsibility of a good government to protect and enhance the dignity of its citizens as well. It is most distressing that these layoffs come as we prepare to enter the busy holiday season, a time dedicated to spending time with loved ones, and a time typically associated with gift giving. Sadly, since taking office the FNM seemingly embraced the need to make difficult decisions, but has ignored its responsibility to ensure that impacted Bahamians are not also stripped of their humanity.
The rationale surrounding these firings is that these terminations are the result of the long-held practice of inserting political appointees, family and friends into key roles within the public service. It is a practice which has been employed by both major political parties and has led to the need for widespread change in the way we view and manage the public service.
As more and more hard working Bahamian mothers and fathers are sent to the unemployment line, the government cannot remain silent. The news of these layoffs should by now be accompanied by a concrete plan of action detailing economic goals, initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship (particularly among young Bahamians), improve the ease of doing business and work to modernize the processes by which business is done and money is made within our borders.
Having rode into office on a myriad of promises, including plans to fix the economy and address crippling unemployment, the reports of these terminations are indeed a difficult pill for Bahamians – many of whom voted for this administration – to swallow.
What Bahamians want and need now more than ever is a manifestation of the hope they felt on May 10 as they voted in a government who pledged to do things differently. In the absence of a clear and defined plan, the Minnis administration only affirms the narrative that they are aimless, visionless, and ill-prepared to govern. Is it really “The People’s Time”?
DNA Interim Leader