Row erupts in HOA over GB unemployment data

Row erupts in HOA over GB unemployment data
Member of Parliament for Englerston, Glenys Hanna-Martin.

Minister clarifies social services report did not apply to entire island

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin and several governing members got into a brief, but heated exchange in Parliament on Wednesday night after the PLP MP referred to a recent assessment of unemployment in Grand Bahama in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian stood.

A Department of Social Services assessment of Grand Bahama indicated that nearly 50 percent of people on the island were jobless.

The report, titled “Post-Hurricane Social Trends in Grand Bahama’, published on November 29, showed that there was a 60 percent rate of unemployment in West End; 47 percent in Freeport and 48 percent in East End.

Rising on a point of clarification in response to Hanna-Martin, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said the Department of Social Services was not responsible for providing statistics on unemployment.

“The department of social services did some assessment only on persons who were affected by the storm,” Campbell said.

“So, the data collected and that was used in that report speaks only to persons who were affected in the storm, and that report was of those persons; not Grand Bahama in its entirety.”

Hanna-Martin said while she heard the minister’s point, the study did not reflect the same.

“That study showed 60 percent in West End and 50 percent in the rest of Grand Bahama — the same study that he speaks to,” she said.

“Well, Mr. Deputy, let me advice the government. Do not nitpick with me you know. Your people did the report man. You’ve got a problem with the report, talk to your people. I don’t want you to tell me ‘but yeh, but yeh, but yeh’; listen, take it up with the minister.

“Take it up with the minister. … I don’t want to no if, if, if. We have a report and that is what is on the record.”

Earlier in the row, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said unemployment in Grand Bahama has increased as a result of the destructive storm, “but it is certainly not 50 percent”.

Turnquest, the East Grand Bahama MP, suggested Hanna-Martin was being misleading.

However, Hanna-Martin refuted the claim, and underscored that the report was released by a government agency.

“The member likes to talk about who is misleading and we don’t want to go there because that is another conversation altogether,” she said.

“It was a government agency that released this report and that is overseen by a minister who sits around the Cabinet table and that made the public domain. So, I hear what you are saying about misleading, but these are the findings.

“You can tear them apart if you want, but have that conversation with your colleague minister. But right now, we in The Bahamas have been told by a legitimate, respected agency, going door to door, speaking to people I a very different way; they have told us that at least 50 percent of workforce is out of work in Grand Bahama.”

At one point, House of Assembly Deputy Speaker Don Saunders sought to intervene.

As governing members continued to object from their seats, Hanna-Martin said: “I am not facetious and I don’t play in here.”

Dorian struck the northwest Bahamas in early September. The record storm leveled communities, impacted over 29,000 people and killed at least 71.