Economic Growth and Job Creation

A former high-ranking civil servant in Grenada, Curlan Gilchrist has said that people should be the object and subject of development in the growth of any economy.

Curlan Gilchrist – we don’t have jobs

Gilchrist, a former Director of Statistics in the Ministry of Finance, made the statement last Thursday at a Town Hall Meeting organised by the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) at the Trade Centre in Grand Anse.

He said that if this approach is taken then the mindset in setting the macro-economic policy would be clear, and there will be no contradiction.

Gilchrist who spoke extensively on investment, growth and job creation indicated that growth is driven by investment that creates jobs.

He warned that if government’s policy is concentrated on economic growth primarily, it might be done at the expense of economic development.

“What we see happening in Grenada today, we have economic growth, but we don’t have jobs. I term it jobless growth,” he said.

Grenada is currently under a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) with heavy input from the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) swept the polls in 2013 to be voted into office to replace Congress on a promise of creating thousands of jobs through an influx of foreign investors, the construction of five 5-star hotels, and building a new economy for the island.

Faced with a national debt of EC$2.5 billion dollars and unable to pay US bondholders of some of Grenada’s debts, the NNP administration was forced to enter into talks with the IMF to help restructure the national debt.

According to Gilchrist, job stability is not based on someone having a job letter that is permanent.

He said this is why emphasis has to be placed on skills training, retraining, and retooling the people so that their ability to move ahead will guarantee job security.

“So we need, going forward, growth policy that has at its centre, job creation,” he remarked.

Gilchrist brought to light the current reality of the Grenadian economy by recognising that there is indeed impressive growth.

However, he said if the investment is compared as a percentage of the Growth Domestic Product (GDP) it still borders what was happening in the period between 2008 and 2012.

“There is no marked difference when you look at investment as a percentage of your Gross Domestic Product,” he told the session.

“So even with the impressive figures of the so-called growth, we still remain vulnerable, we still see the emergence of the working poor… We need people to be the centre of our development.

This means that we have to change our mindset in the way we see investment,” he said.

Gilchrist who also served at various times as Head of the Macro Policy Unit in the Ministry of Finance (2007-2013), and Deputy Director General and Director of Trade and Industry, pointed out that growth is driven by investment, consumption, and government’s spending.

He stressed the need for the country to invest in the productive sectors, which include Education, Information Communication Technology, and Agriculture.

Gilchrist believes once there is investment in the productive sectors by investing in the people through training, the gap will be able to be closed between the education system and the competency of the labour force, and producing greater connection between growth and jobs.

The Statistician also noted the high cost of doing business in Grenada due to high-energy prices and the high tax system, which he said do not lend itself to encourage spending in the economy.

“The tax system should be designed to put monies in people’s pockets so that consumption can drive growth and development,” he said.

As an Associate Professor at the St. George’s University (SGU) lecturing in Statistics and Economics Gilchrist has written a paper on the economic impact of SGU on the Grenadian Economy.

He said there is need to focus on small businesses, which account for approximately thirty percent of the GDP.

However, he was quick to admit that while small businesses can do much more, they face difficulty in accessing finance.

Gilchrist was adamant that whatever model of development or growth that is adopted in Grenada that people should be at the centre, and he can guarantee that an environment will be created in Grenada that will sustain people.

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