Minister of Finance Winston Jordan Wednesday rebuffed criticisms of the so-called plantain chip economy, saying that small businesses could be the answer to the country’s “real unemployment problem.”
Jordan was blunt that the Government is a facilitator of jobs and not a provider of jobs, but indicated that even the initiatives to facilitate jobs are not achieving the desired results.
“Anecdotal evidence appears to suggest a widening deficit between the unemployment rate and the rate at which we can concoct solutions to reduce it,” Jordan stated.
He was at the time addressing graduands of the Basic Needs Trust Fund, a scheme which now provides skills training on the coast.
“I am aware that it remains a sore issue, this problem of unemployment in Guyana, with many youths growing impatient,” he added.
The Bureau of Statistics is currently carrying out a survey that will determine the national unemployment rate. The unemployment rate will also be recorded according to regions, and this Jordan said will inform initiatives to address the problem.
“The Government remains extremely passionate about finding solutions and providing interventions to the present problem of unemployment in Guyana,” the Minister stated.
“I must admit that is a complex problem, one which will require concerted action involving all stakeholder,” he added.
Jordan suggested that one reason driving unemployment is the desire of young people to see having a job to mean having an “office job” when there is a scarcity of skilled and semi-skilled persons.
“Government is a facilitator, not a provider of jobs. I hope this doesn’t come as a shock, because you hear some people say, ‘we vote for this Government and what they doing for we?’ Well over the last two and half, nearly three years, the Government has been facilitating, providing the opportunities for you to seize to become your own employer or to acquire the skill to go after a vacancy,” the Finance Minister said.
He lashed out against criticisms of plantain chip manufacturing and other small businesses, saying that these criticisms come even as the country continues to import plantain chips.
“We have some of the finest plantains here, – nice, sweet when they ripe, good when they are green,” he quipped.
“The truth is many have started small and grown large,” Jordan added.
He said too that many are caught up with the idea of getting an office job rather than the reality of earning, adding that there is dignity in any kind of labour.
“The guy who goes cutting grass around the place at about $1500 without bagging the grass – if he had four jobs a day he has $6, 000 tax-free right away, because he is not about to declare it. And he doesn’t have no tie, fancy, shoes, braids in his hair and so forth.”