NO JOB STATS, NO PROBLEM: Finance minister says NIB program gives unemployment data

NO JOB STATS, NO PROBLEM: Finance minister says NIB program gives unemployment data
Minister of State for Finance and for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of State for Finance and for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said yesterday that while a Labour Force Survey will not be completed this year due to the focus of the Department of Statistics shifting to undertake the population census, his ministry will use alternative measures to determine unemployment in The Bahamas.

Eyewitness News revealed on Thursday that the Department of Statistics will not prepare a Labour Force Survey on joblessness in the nation until May 2022, two years after the last survey.

Thompson, when contacted for comment, was asked how the Ministry of Finance would accurately prepare its mid-term budget, and 2021/2022 fiscal plan, as well as funding for certain social and economic programs without empirical data on unemployment in the country.

“No labor force survey was done because our method requires door-to-door, in-person surveys and we have had the COVID-19 restrictions,” Thompson told Eyewitness News.

“As these ease, the team is gearing up for pre-census activities, given that census has had to be delayed.

“That takes precedence.

“The ministry will use alternative measures such as the very valuable NIB (National Insurance Board) information in that the government’s extended unemployment benefits programme provides a good proxy measurement for unemployment numbers.

“And as people get back to work, they drop off the programme and their employers start filing for them again.

“The government has also developed a national strategy for the development of statistics which will transform the Bahamas Statistical System in order to promote [an] independent, transparent and integrated system.

“It will use technology to transform how we collect, analyze and use data collected.

“We have already tabled the new Statistics Bill.”

According to Acting Director of the Department of Statistics Leona Wilson, the department plans to undertake the population census this fall, making it “near impossible” to complete the Labour Force Survey, which is performed twice annually — traditionally in May and November.

Wilson acknowledged concerns surrounding the lack of empirical data on unemployment in the country and noted the varied claims of unemployment being over 40 percent in The Bahamas.

Last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis tabled a suite of new legislation in Parliament, including the Statistics Bill, 2021.

The Statistics Bill, 2021, seeks to establish the Bahamas National Statistical Institute, a “quasi-independent entity”.

It is intended to replace the Department of Statistics.

“The bill also seeks to create a formal national statistical system, encompassing the inputs and requirements of a range of public and civil society stakeholders,” Minnis said.

“The new institute, working within the parameters of a formal national statistical system, will establish and institutionalize common standards for collecting, compiling, analyzing and publishing official statistics.

“It will bolster substantially the ability of public stakeholders to collect data and produce quality statistics in line with global standards. Importantly, the bill also enshrines the independence of the public entity responsible for the collection of official statistics, while strengthening its capacity to enforce its mandate.”

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