Recent unemployment numbers validate the government’s decision to focus on private sector growth, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday.
On Friday, the Department of Statistics revealed that the national unemployment rate decreased from 10 percent in May 2018 to 9.5 percent in May 2019.
The latest numbers also reflect a drop in the unemployment rate from the 10.7 percent recorded in November 2018.
The statistics showed that the greatest increase in employment was in the hotel and restaurant sector, where numbers increased by 24 percent since May 2018.
“Since coming to office, I’ve been reporting that the foreign visitor arrival numbers into the country have been exceptional,” said D’Aguilar.
“We’ve been receiving double digit growth in the stopover visitor category, which, of course, is the most economically impactful portion of our visitor arrivals in that stopover visitors spend 20 times more than the cruise passengers.”
He added, “The government was touting that this category of our foreign visitors was having a very positive economic impact; well, that’s now been validated. So, the numbers have come in. We have reduced unemployment levels from 10.7 percent down to 9.5 percent and according to the statisticians, this is the lowest level in 10 years.
“And then, when one delves into the numbers, one sees that the tourism sector was the greatest source of this employment and job growth. This sector of our economy, the tourism sector, the employment levels increased by 24 percent.
“Now, that is just phenomenal. And so, we are seeing the great results of the airports. We are seeing the great results reported by the hotels. The great results reported by everyone in the tourism sector.”
D’Aguilar added, “The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) were not innovative and creative enough to figure out how to grow the private sector, and by adopting the approach of growing the public sector, we saw that that was absolutely unsustainable.
“We got downgrade after downgrade, deficit after deficit, growth in the national debt.”
He continued, “We had no choice but to slow down the rate of growth in our debt, and really incentivize and motivate the private sector to grow to create additional employment to accommodate persons looking for a job.”
Asked whether the numbers continue to reflect an over-dependence on the tourism sector, D’Aguilar said that The Bahamas must capitalize on global growth in the industry.
“Worldwide tourism is growing by leaps and bounds,” he said.
“So, while there is a desire by all of us to diversify into other sectors of the economy, tourism is a sector of the world economy that just continues to grow.
“So, you know, there are others sectors from which we could glean some employment levels, but tourism is hot right now, so we’ve got to ride this. We’ve got to make sure we take full advantage of this and to create as many opportunities for our citizens as possible, and also to get our private sector to get more Bahamians investing in the tourism sector.
“I think the light has gone off in the minds of many Bahamians, you know, even if I build an extra room onto my house, I can be a part of this tourism sector, and I think you’re beginning to see an explosion in Bahamians finally realizing that this is a sector from which I can now begin to feel direct effect. Before, I had to be an employee or I had to be an investor and most people couldn’t afford to invest in a hotel, but now adding on an additional room, getting into the car rental business, getting into the boat rental business, providing excursions, [the industry is] providing opportunities for a wide variety of Bahamians throughout the length and breadth of The Bahamas.”