Unemployment may have plummeted further than IDB report shows – Dr Jagdeo

Vice-President and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Dr Bharrat Jagdeo says he believes that the unemployment rates that were released by the International Development Bank (IDB) are “very conservative” but he feels it may have plummeted even further.

IDB reported a decline in unemployment rates in Guyana falling from 15.6% in 2021 to 12.4 in 2022 but expressing scepticism, Jagdeo said the report may not cover the period when the previous Administration was in power and unemployment had skyrocketed due to their poor policy and negligence in office.   

General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

“I don’t think the IDB realise what happened in the five years in the starting point because lots and lots of people lost their jobs,” Dr. Jagdeo stated as he addressed reporters at his weekly press conference at Freedom House on Thursday.

“I used to have a daily flow of people of every race coming into the leader of the opposition office because we had an open office talking about the loss of jobs and sloth in the economy no money was circulating. Things were tough for people and being shaken down by government ministers a whole lot of stuff,” he noted.

COVID-19 also contributed to a lot of job loss, and as the PPP/C government took office in 2020 the country was reopened.

“So, the turnaround is often hidden before the reporting period, because if you can’t capture the starting point. You can’t see a dramatic turnaround. They now see a twelve per cent unemployment rate coming down from 15, but for us, it was significantly more,” he noted.

Many were able to return to work because of the way in which the government managed the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Jagdeo explained that he met with about persons during that time who worked in the hotel industry and were out of jobs.

“They are at home sitting down the country is shut down totally, we got to get them back to work, so we managed to get them back to work,” he said.

In addition, there were lots of people from the mining sector, the sugar belt and other areas that restarted working because taxes were changed.

“So, we tacked structural Unemployment as well as the COVID-related unemployment, then the new sectors that we started opening up, the new local content laws for the oil and gas industry, the housing boom, we returned to housing, we started building homes…You have about 20 thousand people easily who are working on constructing homes now, that are now working because under APNU that was not being done.

There are tens of thousands of people now who are working today than were working in that time,” Dr Jagdeo stated.

Nonetheless, the IDB Report stated “The unemployment rate declined from 15.6 per cent in 2021 Q1 to 14.5 per cent in 2021 Q3, driven mostly by declines in the unemployment rate of men, which dropped to 12 per cent in 2021 Q3 compared to 18.4 per cent for women. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates further declines in the unemployment rate in 2022, falling to 12.4 per cent, (11 per cent for men and 14.4 per cent for women).”

Giving another perspective on the report, Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton said that these reports reflect the hard work that the government is putting into implementing policies that enhance livelihoods.

He said that the country’s labour sector has seen tremendous upgrades to revolutionise the way unemployment is tackled, and this approach is yielding results.

“What this speaks to is the policies of this PPP/C government working. So, from the report and its findings, people should recognise that we could not be where we are commended by the IDB and other organisations, if, from 2020, the policies that our government has enacted and the measures we have put in place for the citizens. What is important is the fact that they spoke to unemployment decreasing. We have spoken to this multiple times,” he said.