By Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press
No government whose interest is in the people would be happy with a high unemployment rate particularly among the youth of our country.
On one hand there are calls for the government to do more to ensure that jobs are created for young people and on the other hand we have the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce stating that the position of the government must be to create an environment where it is easy for jobs to be created presumably by the private sector.
There are however some facts that need to be addressed if we are going to speak to the issue of job creation and who should be the primary job creator at this juncture in our nation’s history.
The Bahamas is not yet 44 years old, which from a historical perspective makes the nation still a young one with many challenges to overcome and many decisions to be made as to the type of society we want. The status of ‘developing country’ also alludes to this. What then should be the role of a government in such a young country and what should the role be for the private sector.
It is my humble opinion that the local businessmen who are supposed to be the embodiment of the private sector are first and foremost capitalist whose main priority is and has been amassing enough wealth for themselves and dispersing excesses only when there is a dire need to do so.
There is also the belief that the current private sector does not have the capacity to adequately invest in the sectors that need diversification to ensure that there are adequate jobs for those who are seeking employment.
Added to this is the belief that the private sector is holding on to the capital that they do have. Some may argue that this is a tacit attempt to ensure that the government fails. Whatever the reason we are currently at a juncture where if the private sector can invest they are choosing not to.
On the other hand, we have a government that is committed to providing an enabling environment for job creation. How does the government do this? What does the economic environment look like that would stimulate the private sector to open their purses? Has the private sector indicated to the government the specific hindrances that are faced when trying to create jobs? No. Their mantra over the last 2 years in particular, was that the government must reduce expenditures. The government apparently listened. I would have preferred an aggressive capital works programme, including infrastructural works like road construction and repairs to create jobs on a significant scale. This response suggests that the private sector is looking to the government to diversify industries which is an interesting position to have.
My belief is that we are straddling two economic ideologies that are not helping us to create a solid economic agenda. I believe that developing countries like The Bahamas need a stronger sense of government intervention in their economies and as the country develops government should have less and less input into the economic affairs of said country.
What economic ideology should we be utilizing when deciding on the best economic strategy for this country taking into consideration the current stance of the private sector? If my belief is true that the private sector is not interested in investing and when they do invest it doesn’t help to significantly reduce the unemployment numbers, government’s job has to be more than creating an enabling environment to one where it is a provider of jobs. If our interest is ensuring we reduce the joblessness especially amongst our youth we need to recognize quickly the realities that currently exist and implement solutions that would see the reduction of the unemployment numbers across this country.