Following the revelation that Grand Bahama’s unemployment rate increased nearly five-fold after Hurricane Dorian, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest yesterday expressed optimism about the island’s economic recovery.
His comments came after a Department of Social services assessment revealed that in the aftermath of the storm, Grand Bahama’s unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent.
“The truth of the matter is we were on a fairly decent path to growth prior to the storm” he said outside Cabinet.
“The fundamentals of that haven’t changed. So, it’s just a matter of restarting the economy, putting the support in place for those businesses that may have found themselves without insurance where they do not have the capital to restock their inventory or replace the equipment that may have been lost.”
In May, the island’s unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, according to data from the Department of Statistics.
The document, “Post-Hurricane Social Trends in Grand Bahama”, which detailed the situation on the island as of November 5, found that in Freeport, 47 percent of people were unemployed. In East End, 48 percent of people were unemployed and West End had the highest number of unemployment at 60 percent.
“We do know that there has been loss of jobs in Grand Bahama, particularly during this period up to now, where businesses have not been able to get back up either due to damage to their infrastructure or because of the lack of electricity or just because of the way things are in Grand Bahama at the moment,” Turnquest said.
“But we do know that every day that there are people who are making steps to reopen their businesses and start to reemploy those persons who maybe have been temporarily laid off, or have been terminated or made redundant as a result of the fact that their businesses have been destroyed.
“It is certainly the goal of the Ministry of Finance and the government to assist as many entrepreneurs and small and medium size businesses to get back into business as quickly as possible.
“Hence, we have put aside $10 million to assist with hurricane relief efforts for businesses through either grants or capital loans, low-interest loans supported by our financial industry partners. We are continuing with our small business development program for new businesses to provide capital for new startups to try and get people back into business as soon as possible.”
Turnquest said, however, that the government will await the unemployment numbers from the Department of Statistics before it speaks more to the issue of unemployment.
“…I would wait for the Department of Statistics to complete their unemployment survey before we take anything formally away from that,” he said.
“I’m sure that Social Services have done their due diligence, but I would prefer to rely on the statistics department who are experts at calculating these numbers.”