The government expects the next unemployment survey to reflect “some” increase in joblessness in The Bahamas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest surmised, though he assured the Minnis administration is on track to create jobs and stimulate the economy.
Turnquest was responding to a claim by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis that the Minnis administration has done nothing to create jobs since coming to office.
“The initial numbers that will come out probably will be higher, again the unemployment,” Turnquest told The Nassau Guardian.
“But that is because we had to do some significant rationalization with respect to the public sector, particularly these bogus contracts that he would have been responsible for, his government would have been responsible for, which have driven up the costs to government and increased our deficit over the last year in particular.
“Yes, there may be some increase in the unemployment rate in the next report, but as we have been saying all along, we need the private sector to absorb some of this.”
According to Turnquest, the phased opening of Baha Mar has made good inroads to create jobs, but the government’s efforts will require time to come to fruition.
Rosewood at Baha Mar is expected to employ up to 1,000 Bahamians this Spring when it opens.
Once the phased opening is complete, Baha Mar is expected to employ 5,000 people.
“We believe the coming on of Baha Mar and what’s going to be happening in Grand Bahama as well as the other projects the prime minister mentioned here in Nassau, as well as the Family Islands; that they will absorb some of this capacity,” Turnquest said.
“We are working diligently on our entrepreneurship program, which will lend to take up some of this capacity that the government has had to absorb or has been allowed to absorb with no plan to help pay for it or rationalize it.”
Davis characterized the Minnis administration as having failed to offer clear plans to tackle critical issues facing the nation while continuing to terminate vulnerable public servants.
He also pointed out that one of the only major projects to stimulate job growth has been Baha Mar, a multi-billion dollar project the former administration shepherded through to opening.
To Davis, Turnquest said, “Mr. Davis knows just as we all do that the economy has been stagnant for a number of years and that any effort that we have created will not come to fruition before a period of time, as things ramp up and initiatives get going. So, I would only say to him ‘stay tuned’.”
He continued, “The mouth says anything, but the truth of the matter is, outside of trumped up, artificial employment that the previous government created, we are a little different in terms of where we are.
“In fact, as the prime minister said, the economy is picking up, investments are picking up and we expect to see recovery.”
The unemployment survey conducted last October is expected to be released within weeks.
The most recent survey, conducted last April, showed unemployment declined from 11.6 to 9.9 percent nationally.
This was largely attributed with hiring in the public service, the construction and hotel industries, and Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival.
The Minnis administration has foreshadowed job creation by way of its December announcement that the owner of the Grand Lucayan strip hotel, Hutchison Whampoa, signed a letter of intent (LOI) with prospective buyer Paul Wynn.
The final process for Wynn to purchase the hotel is expected to be completed between January and February 2018.
The reopening of the property is expected to revive inventory of 1,000 hotel rooms and provide nearly 1,000 jobs.
Although international ratings agencies have projected some growth in The Bahamas’ economy, it remains sluggish.
The IMF projected GDP growth of 1.75 percent in 2017 and 2.5 percent in 2018,
The driving factors: a strong U.S. economy, the phased opening of Baha Mar and related construction activity.