Government statistics on unemployment are wrong

Dear Editor,

Last week an article appeared in the press in which it was stated that Guyana’s unemployment level had fallen since the year 2015 to just over twelve per cent. The source of the report was said to be the Bureau of Statistics. This information is very puzzling.

Since May 2015, I cannot think of any initiatives that this government has taken to spike employment. Indeed, the very opposite is true. Many important projects were scrapped. The Amaila Hydro Electric project was shutdown. If this was allowed to continue we would have been receiving power from that project and consumers would have benefited from at least a twenty percent fall in their bills. It was a good infrastructure project to facilitate industrialization.

The Specialty Hospital was another important project that was dumped. Many of the road projects were held up. Only recently some were re-started.

People in the private sector have been complaining bitterly about the terrible slow-down in business.  Many have had to retrench workers. Some had to put their work force on a rotation basis to save their jobs. That has created underemployment.

We also know that the Barama Company had to drastically cut their forest operations and that this has led to a big loss of jobs. Almost a thousand jobs were directly lost. Many more were lost indirectly by those small businesses and individuals which supplied Barama with goods and services.

We are aware also that BaiShanLin was forced to close its operations. Here again, hundreds lost their jobs. Some of those were self-employed. The population affected included persons in the hinterland and the city.

We have seen a fall in the price that farmers receive for their rice. That has led to some contraction in production and land under cultivation. Here too we see an impact on employment in that sector. Fewer people are being employed. Those who are employed are retained for shorter periods. Rural unemployment has increased sharply.

Small gold miners have declined and some medium scale operators have also closed. This is a direct result of government withdrawing duty-free concessions to those operators. More jobs were lost.

The sugar industry is now being decimated. Thousands of workers right across the industry have lost their jobs. This is most pronounced at Wales, Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon. But the impact is much wider and it is affecting city businesses as well.

We have just heard that the regime’s bungling and incompetence has resulted in our fish being banned from the United States. This will affect thousands of people. Workers in the sector will lose employment and those businesses in the communities that depend on the fishermen will also go belly-up.

Government too has dismissed people from the public sector. They also cut two thousand jobs held by Amerindians immediately on assuming office. No employment is being created for the Amerindian community.

Clearly, therefore, we have had a net loss of jobs since May 2015. However, this is not even the full story. Since May 2015, thousands of young people have left school. The University of Guyana has also graduated thousands in 2015, 2016 and 2017.  Many are still walking the streets looking for employment.

The only activity that is generating jobs in our country today is crime. The high increase in criminal activities has created the need for security. The demand for watchmen/women is at its highest ever. Even though this is noted, it cannot absorb the great amount of persons who were cast out onto the road.

The evidence is overwhelming that government statistics on employment are woefully wrong and misleading. It is clear that we have had a significant increase in unemployment. In light of this it is only going to tarnish the reputation of the Statistics Bureau and discredit an important national institution. If we can’t trust the statistics then we would not be able to do a proper analysis and seek viable solutions.

Yours faithfully,

Donald Ramotar

Former President

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