Government’s claim of the unemployment figure in Grenada moving below the 40% mark following the change of regime in the 2013 general elections has been scrutinized by former Minister of Finance, Senator Nazim Burke.
During the presentation of the 2015 budget Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Keith Mitchell told the Lower House of Parliament that unemployment has now fallen to 29.5%.
However during the debate of the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure in the Upper House of Parliament, Sen. Burke, the new Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) cast grave doubts on the figure.
He told Parliament that small and medium size businesses which account for 40 to 50% of national employment are experiencing increased difficulties in the present financial and economic situation to keep their doors open with more and more cases of closure and impending closures taking place.
He read out a plethora of businesses including banks, Bakeries, and Boutiques that have already had to close their doors because of the economic pressure they have been facing, resulting in hundreds of Grenadians now being on the bread line.
‘’Investor confidence has deteriorated considerably. There are no reasonable prospects insight … for the economic recovery of this country… in the short term or in the medium term,’’ he said.
In debunking the claim of the unemployment statistics falling since the NNP took office, Sen. Burke indicated that the state-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS) would be a good place to get an indicator on the correct employment figures in the country.
He indicated that in 2013 there were 2,548 new registrants into the NIS which would have included the 2,000 Imani workers that were brought into government through its youth programme.
According to Burke, the NIS in 2014 recorded 1963 new registrants which would have included the additional 1000 Imanis.
The Mitchell-led NNP wooed the electorate in 2013 to enjoy a clean 15-0 sweep at the polls with the promise of thousands of new jobs, a plethora of foreign investors who were already lined up to come into the country, as well as the building of a new economy.
However, the government has been forced to introduce a Structural Adjustment Programme with a series of austerity measures including a lower of the income tax threshold in order to deal with a fiscal crisis facing the country.