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The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

“There are more people employed in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) today than in 2001.”

These were the words of an equivocal government surrogate who dispiritedly aired an impetuous view of the nation’s economic and unemployment conditions — an attempt, in my opinion, to sway the people while promoting a fourth term for the present regime.

To date, I am still puzzled by this governments advocate’s contentious plea to the people. For me, this is a desperate and unethical political propaganda, which serves as an economic growth barrier. These people have a no desire to change the current status quo through practical economic strategies, but labouring on airing anti-opposition agitprop, and egoism.

Meanwhile, the status quo depicts an environment that lacks economic growth and political stability; hence, high unemployment!

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If the government champion is correct in his analysis of employment in SVG, then there are many major embarrassing episodes to digest!

If so many persons are employed why are so many of them prowling around on the streets? Empirical evidence revealed that there is growing pessimism among persons graduating from universities, colleges and high schools who are yet to find a job. As a matter of fact, there are batches of nurses newly left training college and immediately exiled to Trinidad and Tobago health care system from the harsh unstable employment conditions at home while more nurses are needed in SVG.

Not only are nurses leaving, but unemployed Vincentians are leaving SVG in huge numbers seeking employment elsewhere.

Coupled with this, there maybe another gruesome dilemma associated with the high unemployment rate. According to sources, retirees are given jobs after their retirement – jobs, which should be held by young energetic individuals who are aspiring for prominence in the labour force.

In fact, the lack of jobs available in SVG is evident in the newspapers — one of the main advertising media used by entrepreneurs for posting vacancies. The classified these days are swamped with apartment and vehicle rentals and sales.

This is not all!

In a recent political meeting held at Sion Hill, one of the opposition representatives outlined a number of businesses that were closed under the current government. The list of deceased enterprises is endless with KFC being the last victim. Henceforth, this has jeopardized the jobs of hundreds of workers around the country. Furthermore, even public enterprises are closing — referring to the Owia Fisheries Complex.

By now, I am convinced that Vincentians have dismissed this fictitious high employment claim.

The fact remains – before 2001 when the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government existed, agriculture, dominated by the banana production, was the fundamental sector for the then SVG’s lower-middle-income economy. Correspondingly, the agriculture industry accounted for 60 per cent of total employment in SVG. Taking this into consideration, I asked, how can more people be employed today than in 2001 when the agriculture industry has fallen into a coma thereafter?

This suggests that thousands of jobs have gone extinct – leaving once arable lands derelict – making it unsuitable for farming. My personal assessment is the government has been comparatively unsuccessful at introducing new industries, and the unemployment rate remains at an all-time high, almost 20 per cent, compared to 15 per cent in 2001.

This government supporter must comprehend that economic growth and unemployment are intertwined; hence, it is safe to conclude that the high level of unemployment in SVG is affecting its economic growth. It is also important to note that the level of unemployment is an indicator of the health of economic growth, and if economic growth is to be sustained, the typical volume of employment in the economy should not fall under the determined level. If so, it becomes a detriment to SVG’s economic growth.

Moreover, economists believe that the relationship between economic growth and unemployment can be expressed relative to the requisite output of services generated by employees necessary to sustained an economy and encourage economic growth. In fact, a high volume of unemployment influences a drop in the level of output – for the same reason that there is lower workers’ contribution to the output. This correlation is derived from the idea that the degree of unemployment is unfavourable when there are economic downturns.

Business professional Esther Ejim also explained that unemployment is one of the macroeconomic factors, which economist deploy to ascertain the growth rate and the health of the economy. In SVG, it occurred – when customers place high volumes of product orders, companies have hired more workers to accommodate the increase in demands. However, as seen recently, when these demands drop, companies have laid off workers and terminated operations in an effort to conserve its resources.

The business professional further described – unemployment dispossesses the government of resources imperative to economic development. Another stunning scenario exists is in SVG –the nearly 20 per cent unemployed, is not earning money; hence, the government will collect less income tax compared to a lower unemployment rate. As economist suggested, the government is obliged to expend resources that should be allocated to other areas of development.

A quick fix to the high level of unemployment in SVG is to invest in industries, encourage foreign investment and provide an environment that allows small private sector businesses to thrive — hence, lowering the volume of imported goods, increasing exports and most importantly, creating jobs at home.

Another recommendation to the government is reform SVG’s Division of Labour to ensure positive results and support for remotely placed job seekers, like people supporting the opposition, qualified Vincentians and even the indigenous people — who I think should have special conditions. Actually, employment is critical to closing the gap on other indicators, such as security, education and health. In all fairness, I believe that some drastic changes must be made to existing programs to lessen the red-tape to ensure that remotely place Vincentians have access to long-term employment.

Persons advocating for the government must be ethical and learn the links between economic growth and unemployment.

SVG does not have more people employed today than in 2001!

D. Markie Spring

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

3 replies on “The rise of invisible employment in SVG”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    My dear friend, Markie, as usual you make some good points, and your heart may be in the right place, but your head is somewhere else, I’m afraid.

    As usual, no real data, just empty assertions.

    In fact, there may well be more people employed today than 2001, if only because the adult working population has grown over the past 14 years.

    (The bigger problem is underemployment which is as least asl large as unemployment, given available data.)

    As for your assertion that, “A quick fix to the high level of unemployment in SVG is to invest in industries, encourage foreign investment and provide an environment that allows small private sector businesses to thrive…” which foreign investors are going to provide the quick fix, in which industries, for what purpose? Surely, not to lose money which so many foreigners and return migrants have done for decades.

    Like all your pieces, just more empty anti-ULP rhetoric rather than credible suggestions of how to address our many economic woes.

    Have you ever considered — or consulted the economic literature that says — that there are many countries and regions of the world that are destined to remain relatively poor and underdeveloped because of structural, cultural, geographical and others factors that can never be overcome?

  2. Markie, whilst I agree with most of what you say I do not believe the government figures of 20% unemployment. Firstly this is a government that loves to churn out lies about any subject where the truth will make them look bad or compromise them. Because I believe that Ralph Gonsalves is a platinum card carrying liar, he even told us he sometimes tells lies, I find it difficult to believe most of what he says or writes. It would not surprise me at all if the figures for unemployed exceeds 50% of those of working age. Last week I spent two days driving the whole island, visiting all the towns, villages, even small hamlets and enclaves. I was quite surprised by the number of people sitting about, sitting on balconies, lounging against garden walls. Very few in rum shops, which once again I noticed about two thirds were closed; even some of the small village shops have closed down. The situation is about the same I reported last year when I carried out the same economical tour.

    I wondered how people can even allow ULP representatives into their villages, how they can tolerate being on the breadline without serious reaction and backlash. I believe it’s to do with false promises and gullible people, people who want to believe, people who are made to believe that the little that they are getting under ULP and its current dynasty would be even worse under NDP. Of course that is one of the biggest of whoppers, one platinum class lie by a platinum class liar.

  3. The author is correct. The problem with the ULP is they do or did very little to create or support any industry other than tourism, (and we can’t compete with the rest of the world in that area, because SVG is too expensive). Sadly, Ralph Gonsalves has no interest whatsoever in Agriculture. I know this from short talks I have had with him. He is mainly dedicated to Spending, Borrowing and Taxing, three things that, if not done frugally, destroy all economies. He is not stupid but he follows very bad economic philosophy (Keynesian) plus, his own personal economic philosophy is poor. He has a certain genius in Geopolitics but he is worthless in Macroeconomics. He has been spending and spending, borrowing and borrowing and not created any jobs. Now he is taxing and taxing. if you think taxes are going up now, wait and see what he does if he wins the election!!! The conditions in SVG are well-suited for Supply-Side Economics, similar to what Singapore does, not Keynesian Economics. Supply-side supports the Private sector, Keynesian supports government-chosen money junkies such as those on Mustique.. This is a subject needing a lot more info. In short, Gonsalves does everything wrong in Economics!

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