Our Readers' Opinions
April 16, 2010
The upcoming jobs revolution

by Dr Jerrol Thompson 16.APR.10

In the last 9 years, over 10,000 persons have been added to the NIS’s active employment list, now 38,000, and signifying the creation of an average of over 1000 jobs per year and an average of 1.3 jobs per household.{{more}}

During this period, there have been tremendous strides made in many areas of national development. Of greatest significance, there has been a massive investment and expansion in the infrastructure such as, telecommunications, highways, village roads, airports, bridges and community support buildings. There is a highly successful housing policy with the construction of over 500 middle, low and no income houses, and a highly subscribed 100% mortgage programme which has facilitated the construction of over 200 homes by civil servants, teachers, policemen, etc. There is a progressive revolution in health where there is now a greater consciousness of the benefits of exercise, nutrition and diet, the construction of various health centres, a new innovative diagnostic medical complex in Georgetown, and plans for the construction of a new modern state of the art replacement for the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, probably at a location like Arnos Vale Airport, once it is closed in 2012. Further, with the current availability of 14 Million Euros (EC $40 Million) through an EU grant under 10th EDF, this will help to intensify and transform health care as we now know it. The much acclaimed Education Revolution is now broader, deeper and ongoing and is transforming our labour force and human capacity into one which is knowledge based, more skilled and highly competitive. There has been tremendous progress from the first phase of the Education revolution characterized by Universal Secondary Education and temporary ply-board classrooms (much scorned by the NDP). However, I believe it will be the Expanded Community College, the Agricultural Institute, the ICT Business Centre of Excellence at Diamond and the Hospitality Institute also planned for diamond which will further sharpen the skills and competitiveness of our workforce.

Ultimately, the real benefits of some of these tremendous developments and achievements must be the further attraction of appropriate investments and the creation of jobs. No doubt the construction boom we have enjoyed over the last decade has created many jobs for those in the construction industry, and the forecast is that this will continue. However, it is the creation of other jobs which take full advantage of these investments and the new and continual acquisition of skills and educational capacity on which we now focus, an endeavour which could not have been effectively accomplished with out these earlier major initiatives.

The construction phase of the 1000 room Buccament Bay Hotel currently employs over 1,000 persons. However, on its completion it will employ 1,400 in various fields ranging from hotel and grounds maintenance and guest services to administration and management. The recent yet long awaited announcement of a 500 room Luxury Hotel and Golf course at Mt Wynne, to commence this year, will employ an additional 700 persons and witness a tripling of the number of hotel rooms on mainland St. Vincent. The commencement of a US$100 million Joint venture hotel and Marina in the south of Canouan and other developments in Union Island will also double the rooms in the Grenadines and help create a total of over 3,000 new jobs directly in hotel services nationally.

However, it is estimated that indirectly, this will also spur opportunities and create hundreds of jobs in taxi services, tour operations, airport and travel services, etc, all required to support the expanded tourism industry.

With the closure of Arnos Vale Airport and the full operationalization of the Argyle International Airport, we will see the potential of what I call the Mauritius Effect and the construction of a new city and expansion of Kingstown. This will witness the attraction of private sector investment, the construction of high tech office buildings, the establishment of regional and corporate headquarters, additional sports, health and shopping facilities and the massive creation of jobs over the next decade. These corporate type jobs in fields such as administration, banking and insurance will create a veritable financial hub and thousands of jobs. The National Energy Policy has further liberalised the prospects for independent energy producers using renewable energy such as wind, Geothermal and solar and measures to conserve energy. This can also create hundreds of what is known as green jobs.

One must then ask what are the types of supporting small businesses and opportunities for the private sector which need to be developed around an Argyle International Airport, Buccament Bay or Mount Wynne Hotels or a new City at Arnos Vale to complement these major developments. These opportunities are presently being studied and explored by the Centre for Enterprise. Clearly, the opportunities for jobs over the next five years are tremendous. This is not by chance. This is by bold, deliberate effort and strategic planning by a visionary government, which encourages its people to ready themselves with skills and education, poised with a positive attitude to seize the opportunity of the ULP’s Job revolution.