Letters & Opinion

Gov’ts Unable To Curb Unemployment

By Joseph Alexander Executive Director
St. Lucia Employers Federation

I would like to respond to comments made by Mr. Claudius Francis on Radio 100 on Wednesday January 27, 2016. I have chosen this forum to provide a written record of this very contentious matter which has found itself mired in the political to and fro.

I must begin by stating that the Federation is a membership organization with its mission “To promote and protect the interest of Employers”. In fact, it is a trade union and is registered under the Trade Union and Trade Disputes Ordinance, No. 19 of 1959. It definitely is not an organization set up to create employment or facilitate employment opportunities. Its members do these.

The Federation’s well-being as well as the well-being of the majority of St. Lucians depends on the state of the economy, which official figures show have not been doing well lately. The growth figures available from the Department of Statistics are reproduced below:

2008 2.78 percent
2009 -0.58
2010 -0.76
2011 1.14
2012 -0.79
2013 -1.93
2014 -0.7

What is quite clear is that the economy has not grown under any of the administrations over the past seven years, in fact we are steadily regressing.

Whether as a consequence of the continued low economic growth or not, the unemployment figures tell a not dissimilar story.

2003 19.7 percent
2004 8.2
2005 15.6
2006 17.3
2007 14.6
2008 16.8
2009 20.5
2010 20.6
2011 21.2
2012 21.4
2013 23.3
2014 24.4

One may want to suggest that the high unemployment figures are a result of the financial crisis in 2008, but we can go back five more years to 2003. The lowest rate was 14.6 in 2007, the year of Cricket World Cup, which was artificial as it promptly jumped to 16.8 the following year. The facts are again quite clear; our governments have been unable to curb the level of unemployment in St. Lucia.

The attack by the newly installed Chairman of the Labour Party/President of the Senate was unfortunate as I was only commenting on the numbers and feedback from Federations’ members many of whom are continuing to retrench workers, after carrying the burden of maintaining jobs and hoping for the recovery which has yet to see the light of day; to their detriment of course. The attack reminds me of the actions of a stray mongrel which has been taken off the streets and introduced to a home which it could have only dreamed of, and barking at every perceived threat, including the rustling of the wind in the trees. Mr. Francis must realize that I am not trying to get him off his lofty perch; this is for the people to do and they will make their intentions clear when the opportunity is afforded them.

The Federation has never interfered in politics and under my watch will continue to do so, but Mr. Francis must be warned that the Federation cannot and will not be intimidated and will always retain the right to comment on matters affecting its members while defending their interest at all times.

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