Tue | Nov 20, 2018

George Davis | Delivering on jobs

Published:Tuesday | November 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Governance is difficult.

During election campaign time, the relative ease with which politicians climb platforms and promise to make life better for each and every individual in a country is a far cry from the real business of making, implementing and adapting policies to make the more realistic promises a success.

I say 'realistic promises' because many such undertakings given on the political hustings are mere throwaways, equivalent to giving a dog (the electorate) a bone he can never chew and from which he will never be able to suck the juicy marrow.

But a dog with a bone is happy, right? Until he realises he can extract nothing from the bone.

I make this point to congratulate the Holness administration for managing the issue of governance in such a manner that the Statistical Institute of Jamaica was able to report recently that the unemployment rate, as at July 2018, was 8.4%. The youth unemployment rate at the same juncture was 22.2%. Now, here is why, despite the obvious but flawed accusation that 'George praising the JLP because he's a Labourite', those numbers are worthy of commendation.

In October 2013, under the PNP administration, STATIN reported the unemployment rate at 14.9%, with youth unemployment at 37.7%. Of course, the PNP was in the early stages of stabilising and then reviving an economy that had been drained of confidence and was gangrenous in certain critical areas.

 

Reduced unemployment

 

Five years later, and this Holness administration, capitalising on the foundation set by the previous PNP government, has reduced unemployment by 6.5 percentage points, or 77%. The issue of youth unemployment, identified in a 2017 paper by Joyce Wong and Uma Ramakrishnan of the IMF as part of the vicious cycle contributing to high homicide rates in the Caribbean, was reduced by 15.5 percentage points, or 41%, by the Holness administration.

Of course, a 22.2% unemploy-ment rate for persons between 14 and 24 years old is still high. But the rate of reduction between July 2018 and October 2013 is factual evidence that things are moving in the right direction.

The occupation group, 'Service Workers and Shop and Market Sales Workers', added the largest number of new jobs,13,600 in the STATIN survey of July 2018, relative to July 2017. Women accounted for 90% of the new jobs created under that occupational group which employs a total of 290,700 persons.

Compare that to October 2013, when that same occupational group shed 10,600 jobs relative to October 12 and employed 215,300 persons. So under this Holness administration, 75,400 more persons are employed in the occupational group, 'Service Workers and Shop and Market Sales Workers', than in October 2013.

This brings me to the issue of the business process outsourcing sector. During his opening Budget presentation in 2014, then Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips told Parliament that Cabinet was due to receive a national five-year strategy for the expansion of the BPO sector, under which 30,000 jobs should exist by 2020.

At the time of that announcement, 30 companies were active in the sector in the island, employing 17,000 persons. By the time he spoke in the 2018-19 Budget Debate on March 20 this year, Prime Minister Andrew Holness was able to reflect on a strong 2017 for BPO expansion in which 10,000 jobs were added, 1,400 of which were from new entrants to the sector.

He told Parliament that 763,000 square feet of BPO space was being built at locations from Old Hope Road to the Montego Bay Free Zone to the Portmore Informatics Park to Ferry to the Usain Bolt Building on Half-Way Tree Road, with thousands of new jobs to be added by the developments.

So there is a clear line connecting what the PNP administration before set in motion for the continued strong support of the BPO sector to job-creation and employment, to what the Holness-led Government has done to boost sector expansion and those same job creation numbers since it took office. Holness and his team could easily have messed it up. But they haven't.

And for those who say the plans were so well laid they could never have been messed up, then I conclude that perhaps, just perhaps, you are idiots.

Selah.

- George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.