Dear Bahamas Press,
When someone deliberately attempts to misrepresent facts we call them a liar. When a person repeats the same misinformation over and over again, we say they are spreading lies. And when several individuals repeat the same misinformation over and over, there is a deliberate and intentional agenda to deceive.
Over the last several weeks members of the FNM cabinet and its chairman, have been all about in the press and on talks shows stating emphatically that the level of unemployment is going down. What is so amazing about this, is the people who have interviewed them, whether it be talks show host or news reporters, seem not to be knowledgeable enough about basic economics to question the veracity of their statements.
What has me perturbed, is the fact that the information that these men continuously state as evidence to support their claim, does not tell the entire story. They are cherry picking the information and speaking half truths so as to deceive the public and create a perception that the actions they took on the economy are working. Meanwhile, the true depth of their incompetence and mismanagement is ignored. If the media actually dug into this claim, they would find that the FNM is not only being dishonest, but this administration has miscalculated the length and depth of the recession and made decisions based on those miscalculations that has made the recession more painful that it needed to be.
Every time you heard or read statements made by Mr Laing, Bethel, Foulkes and now Mr Ingraham about the level of unemployment, they all point to the declining number of people applying for the Unemployment Benefit as proof that it is on the decline. That’s it! They do not refer to any other metric! That alone should have set off alarm bells to the public and even more so to the media that something isn’t adding up.
This is totally unacceptable. Firstly, no country in the world points SOLELY, to the level of activity in its unemployment scheme to get a read on the level of unemployment. They may incorporate that data to help form a larger picture on the state of the economy and the labor force, but by no means do they point over and over to this one metric as a sign of anything on a national scale. The accepted method, is to perform an unemployment survey.
Most developed countries perform this survey several times a year. But the standard practice in the Bahamas and in the Caribbean is to do it once a year. But the thing is, the last unemployment survey done by the FNM, was done in 2009 and the results of that survey pegged unemployment at 14.2%. The FNM has not done one since! They did one in 2008 but none in 2010 and so far, it looks like none will be done in 2011.
Can someone please explain to me, how, in the midst of this economic depression, that the most important metric used to determine the level of unemployment hasn’t been done in almost 2 years? Is it because they don’t want the public to know what the current unemployment level is, which would only reveal that things have gotten worse? Could it be they don’t want the public to know how fast the unemployment has risen under their watch? Could it be they do not want this information out there because they do not want the public to think they are clueless and incompetent? There is just no excuse for this survey to not be done!
The fact that there isn’t any current employment data during the height of this economic upheaval is embarrassing to say the least. Mr Ingraham can borrow monies for all kinds of foolishness, but can’t borrow some to find out whats really going on in the labor force? Shame on him, shame on Laing and double shame on Mr Foulkes. Why double shame on Mr Foulkes? He is the Bahamas’ sitting Min of Labor and he can’t say with certainty what the current national unemployment rate is. That’s embarrassing. If there is one thing the Min of Labor should know, he should know the CURRENT unemployment rate. But you can’t know it, if you don’t do the survey!
But lets take the FNM’s word that Bahamians are finding jobs and the labor market is improving. The obvious question is, what is the economic stimulus that has caused this movement in the labor force and consequently the reduction in the unemployment rate? What can they point to as the cause? Hmmm, lets see: Baha Mar is still in its infancy stages, so we know its not that. The road works have been going on for over a year now, so the employment benefit from that is minimal, so we know its not that. Um…… Can someone please tell me what big economic activity is going on in the country right now that has hired several thousands Bahamians? Because you need several thousands of Bahamians to be hired in order for the unemployment percentage to drop, not a few hundred!
Anyone been reading the business section of the Guardian or Tribune for the last few months? The banks are crying. Small businesses are crying. The hotels are crying. The Construction industry is crying (except for Mosko and Bahamas Hot Mix). So who is providing the economic stimulus that is causing the unemployment rate to drop? The only group of people who has found work is Bahamas Hot Mix, Mosko Construction, that fella who was awarded the contract to build that bathroom on Saunders Beach, and the Chinese. There just hasn’t been any significant economic stimulus in this country in almost four years. So i ask again, who is hiring Bahamians in such numbers that would cause the unemployment level to decrease?
According to my Prime Minister and his government, the number of people applying for unemployment benefits are down, so for whatever reason, they have decided to claim that unemployment is going down too! The problem with their logic is you are only allowed to apply for the unemployment benefit ONCE A YEAR! After you have initially received this benefit from NIB, you can only get the benefit again AFTER you have contributed back into the scheme for ANOTHER 52 WEEKS, A FULL YEAR!
Let me make it clearer. If I were working for at least a year, 52 weeks, and lost my job, I would get 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. After the 13 weeks, I can not receive this benefit again until I have put in another one year, minimum, of contributions to NIB. So after my initial benefit expires, if I can’t find work, i can’t reapply for the benefit. If I do find work but I’m not employed for at least a year, I am still ineligible for the benefit as I have not meet the 52 week of contributions requirement since I last receive the benefit.
So considering the economic climate, obviously the number of people applying for the benefit will decrease over time, NOT INCREASE. This is why the government shouldn’t tout the unemployment scheme as its proof that unemployment is going down. Their statement is so dishonest and deceitful. They know this metric is a poor one, but yet they tout this foolishness rather than do the proper thing and do a labor survey.
Its hard out there right now and in the face of an upcoming general election, Mr Ingraham and his band of clueless followers have to start giving an account for their economic performance. They are not responsible for the recession, but they are and will be held responsible for their management of the country’s resources during the recession.
Their handling of the economy during this recession is so bad that they have now resorted to cherry picking information to make themselves look good.. I mean these fellas couldn’t even get their budget projections right. Every budget the FNM presented to Parliament was off by HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. It wasn’t even close. They can not blame the recession for their lack of proper analysis and bad fiscal management.
This is one of the reasons they raised taxes so high in the last budget. Their calculations in the 2 previous budgets was so off that they dug to deep a hole. The Bahamas financial situation became so bad under Mr Ingraham that the country’s credit rating was downgraded. That made it more expensive and harder to borrow money. That’s why Mr Ingraham loves the Chinese. They have plenty money to lend, with few impediments. But the Chinese poison pill comes later, much later, as nothing is as good as it seems.
Bahamas Press, I am not a member of the media, but it really causes me to scratch my head as to their level of laziness and lack of curiosity. How can they not see that something is wrong when the government and the Min of Labor has not done an unemployment survey in almost 2 years? The fact that they are not questioning the government’s rational behind this decision is startling considering the economic recession. That is crucial information. They have not done the survey since 2009, there has been very little economic activity but yet the government claims unemployment is going down and no one in the media bothers to ask them how can that be? These guys are wutless indeed.