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Howai on unemployment rate: Lower than 4.9% hard to achieve
Finance Minister Larry Howai, while not disputing that unemployment has dropped to 4.9 per cent, cautioned, however, that he does not see the figures falling too far below that. “A further drop could be difficult to achieve,” the minister said, fielding questions from the media on the matter at a Planning Ministry function at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain yesterday.
“It (a further decline) would require significant investment in training.” Asked about statistics released by the Government Information Services Ltd (GISL) which showed that unemployment has declined to 4.9 per cent, Howai replied, “I have not seen the official GISL release, but I have asked my staff to take a look at the figures and let me know where they see a decrease so I can look at it.”
Not disagreeing or agreeing with the figures, Howai recalled that he met with members of the T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA) last week as part of a pre-budget consultation and they complained about a lack of skilled workers. The TTMA asked the Government to scale back on some of its social programmes like the Unemployment Relief Programme, in order to get some workers into the manufacturing sector, he said.
“They spoke about one particular employer who said he needed to significantly increase his workers...They said he has difficulty sourcing labour,” Howai said. He said the Government was a major absorber of the labour force.
“It is being conveyed that programmes like the URP may be putting a little pressure on the unemployment figures,” he said.
As for the GISL releasing the figures (without quoting the source), Howai said he does not know what is the normal process for the Central Statistical Office to send out information, but added, “I would take it no normal process has been breached. Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, who gave the feature address at his ministry’s function at the Hyatt yesterday, was asked by the media if unemployment was down. “That’s what the CSO says,” he replied.
Tewarie quoted from an International Monetary Fund report which said a number of jobs had been created in the services sector. “The CSO report has clearly indicated that the labour force (the number of people looking for work) decreased,” he said. “There are areas in which there is significant unemployment, like in the construction sector, and other areas are buoyant.”
Asked if he had held discussions with two local businesses selected to invest at Invaders Bay, Tewarie said he informed the owners via letter that they would be called for talks. He said he wrote to the overseas group that failed to get the nod (M Falcon Ltd) informing them of this. “Since then, I have had a request to meet with the company...I have to think about it,” he said. “I have a responsibility to the custodians of the particular property,” he said.
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