Calling critics from the opposition visionless, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday doubled down on his pledge to reduce unemployment to at least six percent by the end of next year.
“I have heard and read the commentary that it is highly improbable that we can get unemployment down to six percent,” he said in the House of Assembly.
“Mr. Speaker, we need to think boldly and with greater vision and imagination, which is lacking in the leader of the opposition and his visionless party.”
A drop to six percent would be a significant decrease in unemployment.
The latest unemployment figures, which were released by the department of statistics in August 2019, revealed the national unemployment rate had dropped to 9.5 percent, which was the lowest rate in 10 years.
However, that was before Hurricane Dorian devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September. Nearly six months after the storm, many former residents of the islands remain homeless and jobless, contributing to doubt of the feasibility of Minnis’ promise.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said the drastic decrease Minnis projected simply “cannot happen”.
Despite the backlash, Minnis insisted it will take innovation and less rigid thinking to expand the economy.
“We need to rethink and innovate when it comes to an economic model that some rigidly propose for tourism development,” he said.
“We need to update our thinking about the economics of tourism.”
He added, “Suppose, Mr. Speaker, we move hotel occupancies from 65 percent to 85 percent.
“[E]ighty-five percent occupancy would mean an additional 3,600 rooms occupied every night in The Bahamas.
“That is equivalent to filling a property one and half times the size of Baha Mar every night. An additional 3,600 rooms occupied every night at double occupancy would mean an additional 438,000 annual stopover visitors with an average length of stay of six nights.
“With each visitor spending the average $1,500 per visit, moving occupancies from 65 percent to 85 percent would mean an additional $657 million in incremental visitor expenditure in The Bahamas. When we look at the data showing the number of direct, indirect and induced jobs that would be created by such an outcome, the six percent level of unemployment is achievable from tourism sector expansion alone.”
Officials at the Department of Statistics have said the upcoming labor force survey will only reflect employment on New Providence.