PRIME Minister Hubert Minnis. (File photo)
By LEANDRA ROLLE
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday predicted the national unemployment rate will drop to six percent or less by the end of 2021.
Dr Minnis made the prediction while speaking to reporters about the reactions he received from residents in Abaco and Grand Bahama on his recent announcements concerning projects for the two islands.
“I think both Grand Bahama and Abaco and the Bahamas at large are very happy with the announcements,” he said when asked about the responses he’s received thus far.
“…Of course, you know the devastation we have experienced and any type of ventures or developments (that) will help to redevelop those areas that have been devastated and to create employment with what we see on the ground in both Abaco and Grand Bahama and what is happening in terms of rebuilding, I think our unemployment rate would come down dramatically.
“No politicians like to make such statements, but I can make a bold statement and state that I think by the end of 2021, unemployment rate, I’m certain will be around six percent if not less.”
Last August, labour force officials revealed that the national unemployment had decreased from 10.7 percent in November 2018 to 9.5 percent, showing an overall improvement.
The statistics were gathered from 3,500 people in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco.
At the time of the survey, the rate in New Providence was 9.4 percent and Grand Bahama was 10.9 percent. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for Abaco was 9.3, a 1.6 increase from 7.7 percent in 2018.
Despite Abaco’s unemployment increase, both New Providence and Grand Bahama showed unemployment decreases down from the previous 11 percent and 11.9 percent respectively.
However, after Hurricane Dorian ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September 2019, destroying many homes and businesses, thousands of the residents have been forced to relocate elsewhere in search of working opportunities.
In December, while refuting an international report that suggested unemployment on Grand Bahama was nearly 50 percent in the aftermath of the deadly storm, the Ministry of Finance said it was advised by the National Insurance Board (NIB) that between September and November of 2019, it received 888 applications for unemployment benefits from Grand Bahama.
The statement noted while the 888 applications for unemployment benefits did indicate an upward move in unemployment given the devastation of Dorian, it did not signal a spike in unemployment equal to 16,000 persons – which would represent an unemployment rate of 50 percent in Grand Bahama.
In December, Department of Statistics officials said they would not conduct its annual Labour Force Survey on Abaco and Grand Bahama in 2010 due to Hurricane Dorian. The survey was set for November 2019, but was delayed due to the storm.
Since the passage of Dorian, the government has paid out nearly $2m in unemployment benefits to hurricane victims in Grand Bahama.
“Unemployment assistance, through the National Insurance Board, provided help to those employees, affected by the temporary closure of businesses after the storm,” Dr Minnis said in his first national address for 2020 earlier this week. “Over $1.7m in these benefits, has been paid to Grand Bahamians.”
It is still not clear how much unemployment benefits have been paid to storm victims in Abaco.
However, speaking at yesterday’s heads of agreement signing for a $300 million marina in Abaco, Dr Minnis said the new project will allow for 600 jobs to be created on the island during and post-construction.
“It is anticipated that 600 workers will be employed during the construction phase of the project. … during the projects operational phase, the development expects to employ 600 workers.”