Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest downplayed a Shelter Sector social services survey that claims nearly 50 percent of people on Grand Bahama are unemployed after Hurricane Dorian, as he told The Nassau Guardian that the survey is “not necessarily reflective of the actual unemployment” on the island.
“With respect to the unemployment number that has been reported in the paper – 50 percent unemployment in Grand Bahama, and particularly in east and west Grand Bahama – the reality is that the survey that Social Services did was not a statistical survey,” Turnquest said.
“It was based on the homes that they would’ve visited, which is not necessarily a representative sample of the homes or the employment situation in particular.
“As you know, the unemployment surveys follow a very defined and best international practice standard so that the results are consistent and they are in accordance with international statistics reporting unemployment numbers.
“So it’s unfortunate that that number, or that internal report, was shared with the media, because it does create an unnecessary sensationalism around a very difficult issue for the residents and for the island affected.
“But it is not necessarily reflective of the actual unemployment.”
The Shelter Sector Bahamas 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.
In May, the island’s unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, according to data from the Department of Statistics.
In November 2018, it was 11.9 percent.
“We do know and we do expect there’s going to be a bump up in unemployment because of the fact that some businesses have been severely damaged as a result of the storm, and thus they’ve had to lay off some people,” Turnquest continued.
“There are others who have, because of the magnitude of the loss, have decided – and given economic conditions that may have existed even prior to the storm – that opening does not make sense in the current environment or in this present time. And so they may be affected.
“But certainly I think to say that it’s 50 percent in the medium to long-term is probably on the very, very extreme end.”
He stressed that the government is taking action “to try and facilitate the recovery, economic recovery and job recovery, on the island”, highlighting unemployment numbers prior to the storm and stating that government “has done it before”.
“We’ve had a setback but the fundamentals still remain the same. We anticipate that the commitments that we’ve had from our international investors as well as domestic investors will continue into the new year, and we’ll see rebound within the next year or two,” said the East Grand Bahama MP.
He added, “We have a number of new projects that are anticipated to come on stream next year, starting as early as January – shovels in the ground – that should create some employment.
“The airport is reopening; that will facilitate the tourism sector and get people hopefully back into the hotels and the tourism products that are allied.
“We are continuing with our investment programs in small to medium-sized enterprises. We have developed a program specifically for small businesses that may have been affected by the hurricane to help them recoup the losses that they may have sustained that are uninsured, and so hopefully all of these efforts together along with the confidence that the populations are returning back to these islands.
“People who may have been displaced, and all of the rebuilding efforts that are necessary to ensure that people are restored to their normal comfort will create the kind of ecosystem that will support the return of the population and any economic activity we need in order to drive these unemployment numbers down.”
Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA), a joint venture by the Grand Bahama Port Authority and Hutchison Port Holdings, was destroyed during Dorian in early September and has not received international commercial flights since.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were scheduled to inspect GBIA and Leonard M. Thompson International Airport (LTIA) on Abaco to determine whether they are fit to receive international commercial flights.
Last month, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar revealed that the government is eyeing the purchase of GBIA, claiming that Hutchison Ports has “not demonstrated” an effort to rebuild the airport to the state that it was prior to the storm. However, he said that “initial discussions” were underway.