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Top Official Forecasting Jobless Rate Over 13%

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Marlon Johnson

By YOURI KEMP

The Ministry of Finance's top official yesterday forecast that the national unemployment rate could surge back to over 13 percent next year due to the economy shrinking from Hurricane Dorian.

Marlon Johnson, the acting financial secretary, gave the grim prediction as he told the annual Accountants' Week conference that the estimated total loss inflicted by the category five storm is around $2.5bn - the same estimate provided recently by Central Bank governor, John Rolle.

The swift return to double-digit unemployment figures, with the national rate having dropped to 9.5 percent in the last Labour Force Survey from May 2019, is a blow to Bahamian society but not surprising given that all economic activity in Abaco has ceased while Freeport and Grand Bahama are still recovering.

Using data from that last Department of Statistics survey, which placed the Bahamian workforce at 237,525, a 3.5 percentage point jump in the unemployment rate would take the total number of jobless to 30,878 - an increase of 8,313 upon the May 2019 numbers. Abaco and Grand Bahama had total labour forces of 14,620 and 32,825, respectively, pre-Dorian based on the Labour Force Survey.

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, echoed the revised International Monetary Fund (IMF) growth forecast for The Bahamas by projecting that GDP expansion for 2019 will be halved from near two percent to one percent (the IMF forecast is from 1.8 percent to 0.9 percent). He also projected a contraction in the economy for 2020, with an expected pick up in 2021led by reconstruction activities in Abaco.

Reiterating that the fundamentals of the government's fiscal consolidation strategy remain intact and will post-Dorian, Mr Johnson reaffirmed that the government is looking to borrow close to $500m to plug the deficit gap created by the hurricane.

He said: "What we will have to borrow, to put it in stark terms, is the difference between what we brought to Parliament and have gotten, and what we have gotten and where believe the deficit will end up.

"We anticipated that the original deficit projection was at $137m, and that deficit will [now] shoot up over $500m. The only two ways the government can raise revenue is to tax and another is to borrow. The government said that instead of raising taxes it has decided to borrow to meet the debt."

Mr Johnson confirmed the government is looking at a variety of financing sources, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and domestic commercial banks, to make up the shortfall. He added that the Government is aiming to keep recurrent expenditure at 20 percent of GDP without increasing taxes.

The Ministry of Finance official said the deficit may grow to more than $650m, but that number will "modulate" as the Government "tweaks" its numbers in light of the forthcoming economic impact assessments that have been done post-Dorian

Dr Hubert Minnis said in an address to Parliament that the Government is waiting on the impact assessments conducted by the IDB and United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Despite the $200m "wipe out" of revenues and unplanned expenditure to deal with Dorian, Mr Johnson said electricity restoration costs for Abaco are estimated at $80m while repairing the Water & Sewerage Corporation's infrastructure is pegged at $15m, inclusive of expenditures such as shipping persons and material back and forth from Abaco.

Mr Johnson said there will be a "radical" increase in spending over the next few years.

Comments

John 4 months, 3 weeks ago

The fact is too many Bahamians are earning negative incomes, after being employed. It costs them more to prepare for and go to work than they are earning. And this is because the cost of living has skyrocketed under the current government and continues to climb. Food prices are through the roof and many families find it cheaper to buy fast food rather than cook every day. And this in itself is creating other problems. Dorian was a perfect storm in more ways than one. It can now take the blame for several eventualities Government is taking too much taxes out of the economy and this is causing the economy to hemorrhage. Businesses cannot seem to find an equilibrium in the economy because as soon as they adjust their inputs and try to at least breakeven, the government adds another financial requirement or tax burden. The best hope now is if residents quickly and miraculously decide to hurricane-ravaged areas and start restoration. This will create at least some employment and activity in the retail sector. Otherwise look for more tax increases. Much more. And a bleak 2020.

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proudloudandfnm 4 months, 3 weeks ago

under the current and past administration.....

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Porcupine 4 months, 3 weeks ago

There is little to no good news for The Bahamas. Taken as a whole, we have an uninformed or "could care less" citizenry, influenced by charlatans in wigs and suits, robes on Saturday and Sunday, and sometimes well- meaning know-nothings in political office. We are deep in a hole, the likes of which rarely seen. Not as a gambling addicted head of a household who didn't know when to quit, or couldn't. But, an entire country being led astray by those who refuse to see the truth, merely to save their jobs. This is a national tragedy. The lack of understanding of what is around the corner, is truly a sad situation. Is there any honesty, besides the comment section of the papers? Working two jobs, as many Bahamians must, just to provide for their families is unacceptable. It is not living. Fraud and corruption must end if there is any hope for the youth in this country. We have destroyed truth in our use of language, as shown clearly in the high profile case now before the court. We seem quite willing to cloak the criminals in our midst, be they family or friend. Christian? Hardly.

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bahamianson 4 months, 3 weeks ago

"Gave the grim prediction", Really? A sanitation engineer can see that a mile away. With all of his degrees, is that all he can come up with? Does he have to bring this to light? Can we not see this by ourselves? Be creative and come up with ideas to create jobs without increasing taxes , then you will get my praise.

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enough 4 months, 3 weeks ago

" Is there any honesty, besides the comment section of the papers?"

This is such a true statement Porcupine. These comments are the only place I find people making sense. Sadly more sense than even the articles we comment on. You think anyone reads these?

Our country and its citizens have been living in a dream world for the past 10 years, maybe more. Our politicians continue to hide the truth and the people refuse or are maybe not in tuned enough to see it. I do not want to say ignorant cause then people assume you are talking about a certain class. If I use the world ignorant I wish to clarify I mean across the classes. I have found ignorance in the poor, middle and rich.

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