Political activist Jomo Thomas says he believes that unemployment will be a big issue in the 2020 general elections.
“The question as to what has happened over the years, you can be sure that the issue of unemployment is going to be a big, big issue in this election,” Thomas said on WE FM’s “2020 Manifesto” on Friday.
“If the opposition don’t know that yet, then they don’t know anything about politics and unemployment is a serious, serious problem in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Thomas said.
To illustrate, he said:
“I mean, we hang out at a particular place every now and again and we see what the traffic is, and we talked to the proprietor and we know what the difficulties are.
“And that is an open secret. It is true that there are a lot, a lot of people who are seeing real, real difficulties in making ends meet.
“And that is going to be a central question. There are a whole host of other issues that may come into play. And I don’t want to give any advice for free for anybody. But certainly, it is not going to be an easy election — rhetoric aside… But fundamentally, I think that the unemployment issue is going to be a big issue.”
Overall unemployment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) at the end of 2017 was 25%, 3.5 percentage points higher than in 2012, and 4 percentage points higher than in 2001, when the ruling Unity Labour Party first came to office.
Youth unemployment was 46%, according to the statistics presented by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the 2017 Article IV Consultation Staff Report for SVG.
Gov’t project more jobs in 2020
However in January 2018, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said the numbers given to the IMF were “still being scrutinised” and were “actually not accurate” and should not have made it into the public domain.
He said the data was collected when university students were coming home and graduating from college and all of them were marked as unemployed.
In his 2020 Budget Address, Gonsalves said that the fiscal package anticipates employment growth in the construction, hospitality, manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries sectors.
In addition to the 106 posts created in the central government, the budget points to an “immediate spike in construction and agriculture employment, with rapid growth on the horizon in the hospitality sector,” he said.
He said that beyond construction and the jobs that typically accompany projected economic growth, the Clear Harbor Call Centre plans to employ over 300 young Vincentians by year-end.
The Rainforest Seafood facility, scheduled to open in Calliaqua by September, will create 50 direct jobs, and sustain scores of fisherfolk,” he said, adding that jobs are expected in the medical marijuana industry.
The minister also projected job growth in the retail sector led by the opening of the shopping and entertainment plaza in Arnos Vale, and planned expansions of existing retailers.
Gonsalves said that surveys of local manufacturers suggest that many plan incremental expansions in 2020.
Further, scores of Vincentian nurses are about to begin work in the United Kingdom, he said.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had announced that general elections will be held this year, ahead of the March 2021 constitutional deadline.