by Linda Straker
Nazim Burke, Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), has accused the government of inflating its employment figures by including thousands of temporary road workers as permanent workers in the 2017 Labour Force Survey.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell announced in the 2018 budget presentation that the unemployment rate which previously stands at 28%, was 24%. “The results of the 2017 Labour Force Survey indicate that relative to 2016, the employed labour force expanded by 1,095 persons and the unemployed labour force declined by 2,822 individuals, resulting in a reduction in the unemployment rate from 28.2% in 2016 to 24% in 2017,” the Prime Minister said.
Responding to the budget during Monday’s sitting of the Upper House, Senator Burke described the 2018 estimate of revenue and expenditure as filled with ‘smoke and mirrors’ and accused the government of not focusing on strategic changes to meet the needs of the nation.
“We had received information that when the survey was done those 3,980 persons who get 3 fortnights a year, were working when the survey was done; 3,980 de-bushing workers were on the job, technically they are employed and those numbers that we are hearing include these almost 4,000 people,” he said.
Government de-bushing programmes occur 3 times per year: pre-Easter holidays, pre-carnival season and pre-Christmas season. Almost 4,000 persons gain employment to cover a period of 4 to 6 weeks during the de-bushing period.
Using his calculation, Burke said that the unemployment figures are higher because the temporary workers should not be included in the labour survey. “The actual figure is about 31.2% because those temporary workers should not be included,” he said.
Claiming that the Keith Mitchell Administration has its priorities in the wrong, Burke said that government’s top 5 priorities are not designed to bring assistance nor relief to the people.
“Where are the jobs, what about permanent jobs for these de-dushers; don’t you think Mr President that they deserve something better than de-bushing,” said Burke who claimed that the smoke and mirror scenario is an integral of the 2018 budget, because it provides no clear answer to some basic questions.
“What is the size of the national debt, there is no answer. We have asked, the journalists have asked,” he said while informing that house that information received indicates that the national debt is more than two billion dollars. “They are not telling us the truth,” he said.
A press release from the Ministry of Finance in September 2017 confirmed that the one-week survey began 11 September 2017 while an official from the Ministry of Works says that the pre-carnival de-bushing programme concluded in August.
As for the national debt, data from the Ministry of Finance shows that the current national debt is $1,992,281,838 while in 2016 it was $2,174,908,476.