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PPP Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali

…economists pour cold water on Ali’s 50,000-job promise

ALMOST two months since being selected as the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C’s) presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali is still proposing to supporters that, should his party regain power, it will create 50,000 new jobs.

However, economists have weighed in on the campaign plug, stating that, although Ali has presented a general figure, it would be difficult for one to determine the feasibility of such a projection without a clear strategy.

“He hasn’t indicated what strategy he plans to use to create these 50,000 jobs, because you can’t just wave a magic wand and 50,000 jobs will be created,” Economist Rawle Lucas told this newspaper on Monday.

One day after he was selected, Ali had told supporters at Leonora, West Coast Demerara in January: “… in the next PPP/Civic government we’ll be creating more than 50,000 new jobs all across this country.”

Economist, Rawle Lucas

Again, at a symposium hosted by the Women’s Progressive Organisation (WPO) in observance of International Women’s Day, last Friday, Ali reiterated his promise to create 50,000 new jobs should the PPP/C regain power. He had defended, initially, that these would be created through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Education.

However, Lucas pinpointed that the matter at hand is less about stating what one would do but providing a clear and feasible strategy for achieving such. With the many unknowns, Lucas questioned for whom the jobs would be created; the quality of jobs which would be created and a clear time period by which this would be achieved as he noted that a five-year period may be a longshot.

“Just think about it. He’s talking about creating 10,000 jobs a year. If you look at it carefully, the University of Guyana produces about 2,000 graduates yearly. So, it means that you probably would have a gap about 8,000 jobs to fill if you were to just work with UG graduates,” Lucas reasoned. “To me, it looks rather unrealistic because under what conditions would he be creating these new industries and under what conditions would he be able to create these new start-up companies. It’s the strategy that would be involved that matter.”

Added to this, the economist stated that others can agree that such a large creation of jobs would require innovation and the necessary skills. He said: “It’s easy to say that I can just create jobs in ‘X’ area but do you have the skills available? And, if you don’t have the skills available and if you want to create 10,000 jobs then it means you’re bringing them [experts] from overseas so you’re really not creating jobs for Guyanese, you’re creating jobs for somebody else.”

Large leap
Meanwhile, another Economist, Sydney Armstrong said that while it is possible for 50,000 jobs to be created in a particular environment and across particular fields, 50,000 would be a large leap for the country to make.

He added that the move would require a comprehensive approach through public-private sector investment; policy development; infrastructure; government support and, undeniably, a strategy. “It’s not just clicking your finger or waving a wand and saying 50,000 jobs,” Armstrong said. “Hopefully getting in to the elections we might see him saying something close to how he’s going to do it.”

He later added that by inheriting an economy being named one of the fastest growing makes 50,000 jobs a possibility but still a high reach.

Economist, Sydney Armstrong

“When the current Government inherited the economy their focus was to stabilise the economy rather than taking it from growth and then expanding. They had to spend a lot of energy on trying to get things in place [such as] the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRAA); collecting enough revenues; businesses following protocols and legislation. So, a lot of emphasis was not really placed on creating jobs,” he said.

“They would have gotten traction towards turning the economy around and creating some amount of jobs. But, yes, it’s going to be a big jump to 50,000 from where we are.
When Ali initially made the promise to supporters, Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, having assessed the requirements to meet the number, had responded: “He should also explain to the Guyanese people whether these 50,000 new jobs are for Guyanese people, or whether they are for some other group to whom he may be beholden.” Meanwhile,

noting the political period, Finance Minister Winston Jordan, a veteran economist, termed the events as the “silly season” even as he encouraged political parties to engage in “realism on all sides”.