By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TREVOR Bodie was happy working in the United States when, a week after the 2017 general election, he was fired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Finding a job and taking care of his young family have since been herculean tasks.
He told The Tribune: "Finding a place to stay has been difficult. Being able to feed my family (which includes two school aged children) has been difficult; everywhere I go looking for a job nobody is hiring, it has left me in the position as a young man where either I'm going to go the right way or stray - it's been so so stressful."
Trevor Bodie is not his real name, which has been withheld at his request.
When it comes to jobs, the Minnis administration's willingness to fire public sector employees was a distinguishing characteristic compared with its predecessor in its first year in office.
Reducing the size of the public service was its reaction to the excesses of the Christie administration.
At least 2,500 jobs - or six percent of jobs in the public service - have been lost since the FNM came to power, the Department of Statistics said in January, revealing an uptick in the unemployment rate from 9.9 percent to 10.1 percent. The job cuts enabled the government to save about $75m, according to Attorney General Carl Bethel.
Yet for every two jobs made redundant in the public sector, one was created in the private sector through the administration's Labour on the Blocks Initiative. Supporters say the initiative exemplifies government's proper role as a facilitator of employment opportunities rather than a source of them.
Labour Minister Dion Foulkes said in March that 1,000 jobs have been filled through the programme.
The initiative coincided with an improving economy.
"The Bahamian economy has turned the corner but significant challenges remain," the International Monetary Fund concluded in March. "Near-term prospects are improving on the back of the much-awaited opening of the mega tourist resort Baha Mar and a strong US economy."
In late April, the Department of Statistics also revealed the Bahamas' real gross domestic product grew by 1.4 percent in 2017.
Some ordinary Bahamians, however, say the quality of jobs obtained through the labour initiative is unworthy of hype.
Kyle Dean, a 27- year-old resident of Killarney, said until the effects of the improving economy trickles down, the cost of living for people obtaining getting the jobs will remain distressingly high.
"What salary are those people getting jobs through that programme making?" he recently told this newspaper. "Minimum wage because those companies still can't afford to give them higher salaries? When you have the cost of living rising as it seems to be doing every year, $210 a week can't sustain a person. You have rent $700 and kids in your household to provide for, so that Labour on the Blocks initiative just gives the illusion that things are getting better when in reality people are still suffering."
The government's effort to address the country's brain drain problem, however, is one initiative Mr Dean praises.
"I like what they did establishing a database so Bahamians living abroad can enter their skills and qualifications in case they want to return here," he said. "They could find a job lined up for them or could be sought out by an employer. We have a serious brain drain problem in this country and that's a good way to start addressing it."
In the last year, the Minnis administration prioritised responding to the demands of international organisations, raising fears among some that the country is moving too fast in response to external pressure.
Despite a brief EU blacklisting, the administration took a robust approach to meeting the demands of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and its Base Erosion Profit Shifting Initiative.
By announcing a waiver for business licence fees for qualified businesses and its plans to exempt some Over-the-Hill communities from some taxes, the populist sensibilities of the administration were also highlighted.
In the next year, the administration is expected to pass a Fiscal Responsibility Act which could impose stringent controls on the government's fiscal operations; similarly, a Public Procurement Bill is expected to transform procurement processes in the Bahamas, introducing levels of transparency and accountability that could curb corruption and boost investor confidence.
In Grand Bahama, the administration hopes to see fruit from its efforts positioning the island as a technology hub. It is anticipated the Grand Lucayan Resort will reopen, although a timeline for its reopening has remained elusive.
Heading into its second year, the Minnis administration hopes more than anything for people like Mr Bodie to be better off, not just for abstract figures indicating economic improvements.
"Who is benefiting from the improvements they are talking about right now?" Mr Bodie asked. "People like me, we are not."