A hungry man is an angry man!

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During election campaigns, there are few topics that occupy as much time on politicians’ lips as does jobs.  The topic of employment and the unemployment rate is, without a doubt, one of the most important subjects to both voters and those seeking votes. It is the same the world over. Voters want jobs and politicians promise jobs.  Antigua & Barbuda is in no unique position when it comes to that.
In the run up to the last election, the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) campaigned on the promise of “More Jobs, Less Taxes and More Investments”. It was adopted as the mantra of the party and repeated everywhere. The United Progressive Party (UPP) was not too dissimilar. They did not fly the jobs banner at the top of the mast like the ABLP but they did use the word 21 times in their manifesto called “The People’s Charter”. Not to be outdone, the ABLP utilised the word 29 times in their manifesto, “The People’s Rescue Plan”.
The thing about politics is that promises are one thing and delivery is another. It is very easy to promise but making those promises a reality is a whole other matter. And, one of the hardest areas to make change happen is in the area of employment. Prime Minister Gaston Browne acknowledged as much in early 2015 when he said that job creations was his “greatest and most consuming ambition”.
Now, if a country’s treasury is bursting at the seams, employment creation may not be too hard, but generally, flush treasuries usually mean that that there is little unemployment. Government revenue and employment generally go hand in hand because a fully employed citizenry means that money is flowing and taxes are being paid. 
This political football called jobs is one that will be reoccurring in our bit of paradise because of the lack of them. The ABLP have patted themselves on the back and told the nation that they have created thousands of jobs; however, their own survey, released mid-2016, stated that the rate of unemployment in Antigua & Barbuda was at 14.1 per cent. That was according to the country’s first ever Labour Force Survey, which was conducted in 2015 by the Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Industry.
Unfortunately for us, there are few regular statistics taken and even fewer published.  Prior to that, we have to rely on the 2011 census, which pegged the unemployment rate at 10.1 per cent.  As you can imagine, two sets of statistics, five years apart, and spanning an election, do little more than unleash a flurry of finger pointing from the politicians. And while that goes on, the people suffer and the nation suffers. 
With no regular statistics to rely on for analysis, we are forced to turn to the hard information around; knowledge through experience, if you prefer. And, if you want to know the state of unemployment in Antigua & Barbuda, then you need only listen to a representative of the latest supermarket on the block quantify the number of applications received. Cost Pro revealed that the company received over 2,000 applications for employment. Two thousand! That is a staggering number of applications for predominantly entry level jobs.
It would very instructive to know the breakdown of those applicants as it relates to gender, age, etc, because it would paint a more accurate picture of our unemployment situation. Clearly, though, without any further information, the picture is not pretty. Just pause and think of it for a moment. Over 1,900 people will be disappointed when they learn that they were not successful. Over 1,900 people will have to wonder where they will get their next dollar.  Sure, some may already be employed and are looking for a change of scenery, but we are fairly certain that is a minuscule amount.
So, where do we go from here? That is the question we have for the politicians. Are we going to buckle down and find a meaningful, long-term solution to this problem, or are we going to continue to point fingers and pass this political hot potato around. That is a question for both sides, because if you, as a politician, have a plan to increase employment, it should not be held close to your chest. We are, after all, our brother’s keeper.  Or, at least, we should be. 
In their manifesto, the UPP promised full employment. Is there nothing in their plans that can be used or adapted to provide
relief, or are all of their plans considered blue poison? At the same time, the ABLP promised essentially the same thing. So, is
there no support that the UPP can provide to the administration to achieve that goal?
Here is the thing; if both political parties share the same goal (ie, full employment) why can’t they come together and formulate a plan to achieve that goal? Is this further evidence that we have reached such a sad stage of political tribalism that we will allow others to suffer while the political football is passed? Does anyone believe that the 2,000 applicants were either all red or all blue?
This situation should be a wake up call for every politician on all sides. People are hungry for jobs and, as we all know, a hungry man is an angry man!
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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