The four-year old Government of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas is cautiously taking measures to provide short-term jobs to ease the unemployment situation in the country, which Finance Minister Nazim Burke estimates at around 31 percent.
Minister Burke who was a guest on the weekly NDC Heartbeat Programme that is produced by the governing political party described the economic situation now facing the country as very challenging.
He said the reality of the situation is that with the country being in an economic crisis resulting in the scarcity of resources and jobs, given the limited cash that is available, government cannot create jobs for everyone.
According to Minister Burke, given the limited resources, government has to decide how to prioritise and what to prioritise.
“We want to continue to provide and where possible, intensify the short-term employment opportunities that we have… So where we can do the farm labour support, we’ll continue to do it, where we can continue to do the debushing programme, we’ll continue to do those,” he said.
The senior government minister conceded that the economic opportunities are not many right now in the country and that revenue collection by way of import duties has declined.
He pointed out that with the downturn in economic activities, government’s ability to finance its operation is being challenged.
Burke who recently attended the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Japan spoke of the Managing Director of the IMF who is the former Finance Minister of France, Christine Legarde addressing the continued scourge of unemployment facing the world.
According to him, in some countries, as many as twenty million people are looking for work, but cannot find a job.
“While the unemployment rate is high in our country, it’s important and it was useful to hear what is going on in other countries as well,” he said.
“Sometimes when you listen to all of the complaints, you wonder if some people believe that Grenada is the only country that’s going through these difficulties at this time,” he added.
The Finance Minister addressed the issue of productivity at the work place and referred to it as being very problematic.
He recalled that in 2003 the World Bank conducted a study and concluded that one of the major problems facing the country is low productivity.
“People come to work late, people leave work early, people idle on the job, people find ways not to get their job done… surfing the internet, spending time on the telephone. Productivity… is not what it ought to be… people are not generating sufficient output,” he said.
The Finance Minister stated that one of the issues that must be addressed in Grenada by the social partners is productivity.
He reminded listeners to the programme that when the NDC assumed Office in 2008, Grenada had the lowest credit rating in the Caribbean.
According to him, that came from a July 10, 2008 report presented by Standard and Poor’s.
He said at the time of presenting the report, Standard and Poor’s made it clear that the poor economic situation in the country was as a result of high debt levels, little progress in reducing the debt, poor fiscal discipline, a lack of strategic planning and a lack of political will on the part of the New National Party Government of Dr. Keith Mitchell to address the country’s fiscal issues.
During 13 years of NNP rule, the island’s national debt jumped from 373 million EC dollars in 1995 to around $EC1.8 billion in July 2008.