Grenada’s rate of employment stands at 33.5%, according to Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr Keith Mitchell.
During the presentation of a $933,932,530 million 2014 Budget of Revenue and Expenditure last week Tuesday, Dr Mitchell referred to a Labour Force Survey conducted in September.
He said that based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition of unemployment which is persons who are not working, want work, actively seeking work and available for work, it shows that the rate of unemployment in Grenada now stands at 33.5%.
He added that among the youth population ages 15-24, the rate of unemployment in the country is 55.6%.
“Mr. Speaker, the Survey’s findings validate our assertion, in Opposition, that the rate of unemployment was at least 40 percent,” Dr Mitchell said in reference to the rate of unemployment believed to be existing under the previous Congress government of ex-Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
Dr Mitchell sated that since his administration took office following the February 19 General Election, it has been able to meet the mandate of delivering to the people and specifically tackling the unemployment problem in the country.
He told Parliament that the New National Party (NNP) regime has been delivering jobs to the people since taking office ten months ago.
He said that a number of projects were rolled out creating much-needed jobs mostly in the field of construction, which showed the largest growth in 2013.
He referred to the Sandals La Source construction project, which started under the Thomas government.
Dr. Mitchell pointed out that the project has provided employment for 1500 persons.
In addition, he said that private home construction are estimated at 500, feeder roads project, 150, concrete roads, 200, NIS Complex project 40 and the new Imani programme, 2000.
Dr. Mitchell claims that the NNP-led administration created some 4,390 jobs since taking office and that this number does not include the debushing and some other short-term employment opportunities created by government.
Business consultant, Jude Bernard has questioned the figures especially the 2, 000 Imanis since these people are considered as “on the job trainees” who are getting a stipend as opposed to a salary.
Prime Minister Mitchell is sticking to his guns that the NNP has created a dent on the high unemployment in the country.
“Since 4,000 persons out of a labour force of 60,000 have now found jobs, this means that the unemployment level has fallen by 6.7% this year”, he said.
“Unemployment has fallen, employment has risen. We have begun to deliver on our promise of jobs, jobs, jobs”, he added.
Dr. Mitchell was forced to defend his categorisation of Imani trainees as employees in the face of public criticisms.
In his closing arguments to the Budget presentation, the Prime Minister said that the Imanis must be non-existent if critics see them as trainees (unemployed) yet they are employed.
He lashed out at critics for condemning the Imani programme and accusing the administration for wasting money on the programme that provides opportunity for 3000 young people.
Minister for Youth, Sports and Ecclesiastic Affairs, Emmalin Pierre also staunchly defended the programme since young people need to be given a chance and offered a helping hand as they too contribute to national development.