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NP for East Kingstown, Fitz Bramble in a Jan. 23, 2024 photo.
NP for East Kingstown, Fitz Bramble in a Jan. 23, 2024 photo.
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Opposition MP Fitz Bramble has dismissed as “bulls**t” Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves extrapolation of figures to arrive at an unemployment figure of 5,000 or about 5% of the Vincentian population. 

“That’s bullshit! Excuse my language. That’s nonsense,” Bramble, an economist, said on Hot 97 FM on Tuesday.

He said that addressing the needs of small businesses is not the only  issue affecting employment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, adding, “But it is a huge and a very important issue. 

“Because if our private sector is stronger and more vibrant, then it takes the pressure off government to directly provide jobs, because they will be enhancing the environment for jobs to be created,” the East Kingstown MP said.

He said that the government has not demonstrated an ability to do this.

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Bramble noted that the finance minister has said there are about 55,000 people in the labour force in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

He pointed out that the labour force refers to people of working age who are either working or looking for work. 

In the absence of a proper labour force survey, Gonsalves resorted to proxy data, pointing out that there are about 43,000 active National Insurance Services (NIS) contributors in SVG, Bramble noted.

“So he’s using that as a proxy to conclude that we have about 43,000 officially employed people. And we all know that that’s BS because you have a lot of people, active contributors to the NIS who don’t work for one reason or another.”

Bramble said that some people who do not work make NIS contributions, so as to ensure they receive retirement benefits. 

“How you mean where they get the money from?” he said in response to a question from one of the show’s hosts.

“I mean, there’s many different ways. Where do they get the money from to survive when they’re not working? People from overseas help them. Every now and again, they might get a little hustle here or there. We all know. Let’s not bury our heads in the sand,” Bramble said.

He said that based on Gonsalves’ analysis, there are 12,000 members of the workforce to account for, adding that the 43,000 does not include van drivers and different people who work and are not registered with the NIS. 

“So let’s assume that the 12,000 that’s left can be accounted for with people who are working, that’s not on the NIS,” Bramble said but noted that whenever there is a road cleaning programme, the government can find at least 6,000 people to work.

“But yet, you’re telling me that you only have 5,000 people unemployed. So the numbers don’t lie. Where do you get the extra 1,000 from? You bring them from Grenada or St. Lucia?” Bramble said, adding that he hopes the government would publish a labour market survey “to corroborate what I’m saying”. 

He said he believes many people have dropped out of the labour force because they got fed up of looking for work. 

“So if you calculate … that number of persons who dropped out of the labor force, added to those who are in the labour force, unemployed and actively seeking work, you have a lot more people out of work or unemployed,” he said, adding that the government needs to conduct a labour market survey.

Bramble said he would not venture to guess the size of the unemployed population of SVG.

“I am not a guesser. As a social scientist, as an economist, I like to go with my evidence and my data,” he said.

“I can’t guess but I’m telling you, it’s way more than 5,000. That much I can tell you. It’s way more than 5,000.  … I’m not gonna pin myself down into calling a figure. But I can tell you it’s way more than 5,000. When the proper analysis is done by this administration, then that should give us a better idea…

“As Rita Marley says, who feels it knows it. And we know the hardship that people are going through in this country and that is why there is this heightened movement for change in this country.”

Told that the government would respond by saying that with the opening of Sandals and with more hotels on the way, the country has turned the corner on the unemployment situation, Bramble said:

“First of all, I do not have much regard to what the Prime Minister has to say anymore.

“As I mentioned earlier, all these broken promises, why should I believe anything he says anymore? And the fact of the matter is, show me the connection between Sandals and all of these glorious things that he’s talking about — the new port.

“Show me how these are impacting positively, in a practical way, the lives of Vincentians. Show me how it’s reducing poverty, show me how it’s reducing unemployment.”

The MP was told that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said Vincentians should “believe what you see”.

Bramble said:

“And that is exactly what we’re doing. We’re believing what we’re seeing. More people walking the streets begging, more people at home unemployed, more people living under poverty, more people going to the supermarket and have to put back stuff when they come up to the cashier because the prices are too high and they can’t afford.”

3 replies on “Bramble calls Finance Minister’s unemployment figures ‘bulls**t’”

  1. Now, MP Bramble, tell us:
    1. why the unemployment figure is important to national welfare.
    2. Why Sandals and other enterprises do not signify a positive direction for national development — employment increase.
    3. Your plans for national employment.
    4. How you would take all the beggars, lazy people, criminals, and emotionally challenged Vincies off the street to make a significant contribution to the solution of our national development problems.

    By questioning the Finance Minister’s assertions about unemployment you have set the stage for a deeper dig into the problem. The solution is not confined to the ULP. You must be a party to the solution. I think you can.

    Thank you
    Vinci Vin

  2. I wish to again commend Fitz on an excellent assessment of the neemployment situation in SVG, and his exposure of the utter rot, the utter smelly stuff the the Minister of Finance spurted regarding the the chroniic unemployment levels in the country, exacerbated over the many years that it has been his the responsibilty of his government to address. There is really a simple way to put this issue to rest, and I dare this goverment to take that path. Have a proper Labour Market Survey and/or Household Survey conducted according to internationally accepted standards but respected and reputable persons! End of story. There is more than enough time for this to be done and the figures released before the official end of the term of this administration. Further, and in the meantime, wasn’t there supposed to be a Population Census conducted very recently? What has happened to that? This will also give insights into the employment levels at the time of the Census. The onus is on the government to provide acceptable data on conditions in the country, not on the Opposition or anyone else! Further to his, is it generally well know tha the country has hit its lowest level ever on the UNDP Human Development Index , according to the Human Development Report 2023? Nuff said. Let me now see what the Defenders of The Faith According to The Gonsalves have to say.

  3. To extrapolate employment numbers from the number of contributors to the NIS is mind-boggling, to say the least. I know of people loving overseas but do contribute to the NIS to ensure a retirement fund, as such these the numbers are skewed. What happened to the population census which was being conducted? By the way, I am still waiting to see them in my area. Just have a look at the poverty rate in SVG, the number of business closed, the number of beggars of the streets and they are getting younger. The number of disconnections from Vinlec, CWSA, and telecommunication providers, the number of people cutting back on everyday items, while prices continue to rise, these are the real facts of SVG, I would not speculate to the actual unemployment number, however it is not 5%.

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