By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Leader Philip "Brave" Davis said he is not surprised by the latest unemployment figures, which highlights a "shameful" public sector shrinkage of more than 2,500 jobs, adding he believes the number will double once the complete picture is revealed.
On Friday, Department of Statistics officials said the country's unemployment number slightly increased from 9.9 percent to 10.1 percent. This snapshot into the jobs situation included the government sector decreasing by 2,555 people from 40,990 to 38,435, or by some 6.3 percent.
Despite an increase in the number of employed people in the Bahamas - by some 3,575 moving the labour force from 200,155 to 203,730 - the 1.8 percent growth was not enough to significantly impact the unemployment situation as the number of high school graduates outweighed the net increase in available labour.
In a press statement yesterday, Mr Davis said if the government is not careful the country will be headed toward a downward spiral of negativity.
The Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP noted it is interesting the Minnis administration is touting and promoting private sector jobs that have been created, but these jobs were created largely by Baha Mar, a project which reached completion under the former PLP government.
The survey was conducted between October 30, 2017 and November 6, 2017. It also found the unemployment rate in New Providence was up from 10.4 percent to 10.6 percent, while in Grand Bahama it declined slightly from 12.4 percent to 12.1 percent. Additionally, in Abaco the unemployment rate was 8.6 percent, up from 7.8 percent during the previous survey.
Mr Davis said: "It is now confirmed that the FNM's policies for the Bahamas have been ruinous for the Bahamian people. The Department of Statistics confirms that 2,500 people were fired as employees from the public sector last year since the FNM came to power. This is shameful. It has led to a decrease in consumer spending, and less tax money for the Treasury. This should not have come as a surprise to the FNM unless they as we suspect do not understand the connection in our economy between consumer spending and tax revenue.
"The figures do not tell half the story, because they cover a limited period of time. When the full story is revealed, we believe that it will be more than 2,500, but twice that number. We believe that the government has been cutting back, the private sector is following suit and if we are not careful, we are headed toward a downward spiral of negativity."
Mr Davis said it is clear the Minnis administration does not have a plan for governance, "nor have they taken the time since in office to appreciate the foundations that were laid by us which they are reaping on a limited basis in Baha Mar, hence exacting victor's justice by eliminating those 2,500 who they believe to be PLPs."
He added: "We say to the FNM, stop these cruel policies and reverse course forthwith.
"What is quite interesting to us is that they are touting and promoting private sector jobs that have been created. These have been created largely by one project, Baha Mar, which was created and supported by the PLP but vilified and vigorously opposed by the FNM.
"They now have no shame in embracing the project they once attacked. But for Baha Mar, the situation would have been even worse. We sympathise with the unemployed. We are very concerned that the government has been targeting PLPs in dismissing people from the service.
"We are concerned about the attempt by the Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest to soften the blow and fool the Bahamian public by announcing in advance the fact that unemployment would rise and then releasing the formal statement on a weekend when the FNM believed that few people would read it.
"The Bahamian people are not fooled. Unemployment is up because of the FNM coming to power."
Mr Davis was referring to Mr Turnquest's comments during a Chamber of Commerce luncheon for the installation of officers and directors in Freeport, Grand Bahama on Friday. He made the comments shortly after officials in Nassau released the new data.
During the event, Mr Turnquest said the added jobs to the labour force was proof the government was "turning the corner."
"Now for the bad news. Unfortunately, the conditions of school leavers drove up the unemployment rate by a modest .2 percent," Mr Turnquest said during the event.
"What is particularly pleasing news," he continued, "is despite what is said about Grand Bahama, and its unemployment rate, the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama declined slightly from 12.4 percent in May, to 12.1 percent.
"So, while it's not big news we're all very appreciative for all of you who would be responsible for that .3 percent decline in unemployment here in Grand Bahama, and it's no surprise where that decline happened. It's primarily in the transportation sector looking at the Container Port, the Harbour, Shipyard and related companies."
Department of Statistics officials said the private sector absorbed most of the new jobs since May 2017, but employment among youth 15 to 24 continued to be considerably higher than any other age group. This increased from 20.1 percent in May to 22 percent in November.
Discouraged workers in the country also increased by 5.7 percent over the six-month period.