By Demion McTair. Updated 4:31 a.m., Tuesday, May 23, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – The unemployment rate in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), “will likely exceed 30 percent in the short-term”, Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves says.
Gonsalves was making ministerial statements in Parliament on Monday (June 22), on the economic situation in the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said 395 businesses which have shut partially or completely since March 1, 2020, represent over 16 percent of the total active employers registered at the NIS.
Over 3,000 claims have been filed at the NIS for unemployment benefits and displacement supplementary income, Gonsalves said.
This increase in claims suggests that an additional 6 percent of the labour force is now unemployed, Gonsalves added.
The finance minister said that “considering the impact of the pandemic on the informal sector, we can safely assume that the unemployment rate has increased by more than 10 percentage points over the last three (3) months”.
He said that while “we are experiencing the early swells and choppiness” of the pandemic, economically, we must be thankful to God because “we are weathering the storm”.
He said other regional economies have been facing more pronounced challenges during this period.
“While our revenue has decreased almost 20 percent in May, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), has reported that other OECS countries have already experienced a 50 percent decrease” – he said.
“Wile our unemployment rate will likely exceed 30 percent in the short-term, the ECCB is predicting 50 percent unemployment rates in some of our sister nations”, Gonsalves added.
“As indicated earlier over 3,000 claims seeking unemployment assistance have been filed at our NIS. In St. Lucia, the corresponding number is 22,000, with 43,000 seeking similar assistance in Barbados. In Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has estimated that hotel closures and lock downs have cost over 20,000 residents their jobs in that country”, Gonsalves said.
The finance minister said “In this context, we try to put our hardships into perspective and give thanks to Almighty God and count our blessings one by one”.
He said that St. Vincent is fortunate and has to be thankful.
“In the case of this pandemic, we are fortunate to not be as dependent on tourism as some other CARICOM countries. We are fortunate that we had the luxury of time to craft an appropriate response to the pandemic. We are fortunate that friends, allies and development partners responded to our calls for corporation. We are fortunate that production continued in our agriculture, manufacturing and construction sectors; and we are fortunate that the honorable prime minister chartered a courageous and prudent course between complacency and hysteria based on science, the experiences of other states and the particular circumstances of St. Vincent and the Grenadines” – Gonsalves further stated.
The global economic outlook is negative as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on economies.