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PM: Unemployment too high

While anecdotal evidence suggests a marginal improvement in the unemployment situation, it is a painful fact that unemployment in the country remains far too high, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said yesterday.

Addressing the Bahamas Business Outlook conference at the Wyndham Nassau Resort on Cable Beach, Ingraham said domestic economic conditions stabilized last year.

It is unclear what the specific level of unemployment is as the Department of Statistics did not conduct an unemployment survey in 2010. It reportedly did not have theresources to do so because of the national census that was being conducted.

Ingraham said the government anticipates the economy will grow between two percent and two and a half percent this year.

He said several factors will contribute to this, including increased inward direct investment resulting from a restart of some stalled projects; new projects; significant scheduled public infrastructure investment; increased visitor arrivals and spending and growth in domestic credit.

“We therefore anticipate that unemployment will decrease this year, but more significantly in the following year,”Ingraham said.

He noted, however, that a possible surge in oil prices could negatively impact gasoline and electricity costs as well as government finances and the broader economy.

Addressing the topic of diversification, the prime minister indicated that while there are opportunities to achieve this on some level, most other economic activities do not offer any greater resilience than tourism.

“And given the continued potential for growth and diversification still provided by tourism activity, it seems quite reasonable that we should continue to devote our scarce resources toward the maximizing of growth in this industry,”the prime minister said.

He said the extent to which creativity and innovation occurs will largely depend on the ambitions, capabilities and pursuits of the entrepreneurial community itself.

“And to the extent that businesspeople pursue various forms of enterprise in the society is the extent to which the economy will take on the profile of those pursuits,”Ingraham said.

“The government, working with the business community, might incentivize, promote and facilitate such pursuits, but ultimately it is the entrepreneurs that make the actual economic enterprise or society a reality.”

He added that the government continues to focus on strengthening its ability to promote growth and development of the economy through competitiveness, productivity and innovation.

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