0

Insight – The First Year: Unemployment Up As Public Service Jobs Go

The ‘Labour On The Blocks’ initiative at Sarah Ingraham Park. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

The ‘Labour On The Blocks’ initiative at Sarah Ingraham Park. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrollw@tribunemedia.net

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."

Comments

proudloudandfnm 5 months, 1 week ago

I have not seen one thing that tells me our economy is doing better. Kwasi lied bold faced about Freeport's unemployment. Not one thing has been done about Freeport's crisis. This is the most useless FNM yet. Shameful.

0

licks2 5 months, 1 week ago

We did not expect you to see anything. . .EXCEPT ONE BIG OLE DOC MINNIS SMILING AT YOU UNDER ERRY ROCK AND THING! One thing ewe all know that has not change at all since the election. . .YOU STILL CAN'T SPEAK TRUTH WHEN IT COMES TO DOC AND SUCCESSES OF HIS MANAGEMENT TEAM!! What a dang shame. . .big dang man still carrying on like a child. . .

0

The_Oracle 5 months, 1 week ago

They talk the talk better than prior admin's but ain't walking the walk yet. Still micromanaging, still buried under daily panic mode.

0

licks2 5 months, 1 week ago

True. . .I think they are a lil touchy for real. . .but they walking the walk big time. . .that whistle blower clause in the new FOIA will send plenty more crooked public servant managers in jail. . . hell promoting ya sweetheart if she can't read the sign on the toilet stall could get ya in trouble. . .it is a new day in this town. . .for how long will be interesting to see!

0

SP 5 months, 1 week ago

"The Bahamian economy has turned the corner but significant challenges remain." Turned what corner and for who?

Businesses are grabbing at straws & collapsing, the economy is stagnant, unemployment steadily on the rise & many more people at most levels are suffering than ever before.

It's the "death of a thousand cuts" out here with no end in sight!

0

licks2 5 months, 1 week ago

Where you been for the last year. . .what you reading? Errybody done left that barn one year ago. . .yoon see that the barn door done open long time!!

0

SmoothSails 5 months, 1 week ago

I've been to those little initiatives ( about 3-4) and I could honestly say that most jobs available are either security, construction, or hospitality. I have a degree, but I'm home, gaining no experience. Trying everyday to contact companies but no one seems to be hiring. Where are these jobs they always talking about??? I don't see why people stress about students being here when they graduate because this town is dry...dry.

1

licks2 5 months, 1 week ago

I worked flipping burgers for two years after completing college. . . then went into my specialty area! You have a degree. . .but you are home doing nothing. . .that says a lot for you not how things are in this nation!! The general rule is that if you stay home and try to "call in" they don't want you. . .they don't know what they are getting. . .getting out there sometimes says a lot about your character. Oh by the way. . .them jobs may be out there. . .down town somewhere. . .but they sure een in ya living room. . .

0

sheeprunner12 5 months, 1 week ago

When will the Government stop investing all of its eggs in Nassau??????

0

licks2 5 months, 1 week ago

When we developed like Abaco did. . . now if they are going to Nassau, them heading ta Abaco. . .Marsh Habour is already the second capital. . .yinna see that pretty government office down there?? Plus they have land fer days. . .I had to leave MH at 6am to reach Coopers Town school for 9:30am. . .

0

bogart 5 months, 1 week ago

Studies should be done on whether the type of govt which may hsve suited the archepelago type of nation well but nation has evolved and perhsps better system is necessary. Hurricane travelling brings the reality we are one nation It is Nassau centric where the majority of political representatives are chosen. Despite the family islands combined may have a group of repreentatives democratically by vote in the Parliament Nassau wins. Coupled with this is the major affliations betwern govt offocials other groups etccentered in Nassau such as corruption etc impede allocation of fumds. Roc wid Doc is setting up his PM office also in other family islands too whoch is a paradime shift and is wished every success and needs the full team work. All islands need incentives help to bring some evonomic independence. Govt missed opportunities to offer tax credots to get banks to use their money expertise, bank officer guidance, banking facilities business, loans, overdrafts, monitoring progress for clients etc whivh bank officers living there will do....to create opportunities in various areas family islands Agriculture, job creation businesses in family islands instead of using govt using tax just for tax . Tax credits should have been offered to incentivise banks and businesses to grow opportunities in family islands instead of banks forced today doing the reverse.

0

Gotoutintime 5 months, 1 week ago

Do they really expect anyone who had left the Bahamas and is secure in a good job to return? Dream on!!

0

joeblow 5 months, 1 week ago

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."

No matter what the state of the economy the real question is why would persons who can only make minimum wage have children? Nobody wants to take responsibility for their own stupid choices! Birth control costs far less than diapers!

0

sheeprunner12 5 months, 1 week ago

The Government cannot sustain employing 25+% of the workforce and picking up a $1Billion unfunded retirement pension/gratuities etc. entitlements for civil servants who notoriously do as little work as possible to earn the greatest paycheck .......... Some serious public sector reform must take place to cut the Government workforce and the exponentially exploding unfunded entitlements ......... The public debt is directly tied to the cost of salaries and emoluments - that already account for at least 70% of every Ministry's budget.

0

tetelestai 5 months, 1 week ago

The problem is, Sheep, you either employ them and pay them...or, you pay social welfare benefits to feed them and/or you pay the prisons to take care of them when, inevitably, they will resort to crime. Personally, it would make more sense to place them on the job and, if they are so motivated, take advantage of the training opportunities that said job offers, with the hopes that they better themselves. A pipedream? Yes, I concede that. But, it is better than throwing these unskilled (and that's what they are) people onto the street and say "fend for yourself".

0

Sign in to comment