Editorial Staff
1 month ago

Editorial Staff
1 month ago

Opposition MP Challenges Government’s Claims on Employment

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Richard Lewis, a member of the opposition party in Parliament, has raised serious concerns over the government’s portrayal of the employment situation and fiscal health in the recently released Budget Statement.

Lewis argues that the figures presented in the statement do not reflect the true unemployment rate and highlight alarming trends in the country’s financial allocations.

Lewis specifically pointed out certain excerpts from the Budget Statement, particularly on page 6, paragraphs 3 and 4.

These paragraphs state that “figures from the Antigua and Barbuda Social Security Board, for January to September 2023, paint a vivid picture of the steady improvement of the numbers of our people in employment and growth in their income.

A remarkable 43,946 employed and self-employed contributors reported earnings totaling $975 million during this period.”

Despite this, Lewis contends that the statement fails to acknowledge crucial information about the number of newly registered individuals as employed or self-employed contributors to the Social Security Scheme.

This omission, according to Lewis, creates a distorted view of the true unemployment rate in the country.

Lewis argues that the government’s optimistic portrayal of employment trends is contradicted by the harsh reality of hundreds of unemployed individuals actively seeking jobs daily and flooding the Labor Department with job requests.

Furthermore, Lewis directs attention to Appendix 2, page 46 of the Budget Statement, where projected revenues and grants are listed at $1.22 billion.

Notably, 62.3% of this amount ($756.7 million) is allocated for salaries, wages, pensions, and gratuities. Additionally, a significant portion, 57.7% ($701.5 million), is earmarked for debt servicing, covering interest and principal repayments.

The implications of these allocations are deeply concerning, according to the opposition MP.

Lewis asserts that the country is already in a precarious financial situation. To cover salaries, pensions, and debt servicing alone, the country is already in the red, with a deficit of $242.8 million, approximately 20%.

The need for additional borrowing to fund infrastructure, social development, healthcare, education, and other sectors further exacerbates the financial strain on the country.

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