St. Lucia records drop in unemployment

St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, has hailed a drop in the country’s unemployment figures, declaring that his administration is very excited about the development.

However  Chastanet told reporters that there is a difference between progress and success.

“When I say we are making progress, that does not in any way say that we are successful,” Chastanet explained.

He described the recent economic figures as indicating that progress is being made.

“But by no means is my administration standing up and down shouting that we are successful,” he stated.

Figures released last month by the Central Statistics Department, showed that unemployment went from 20.8 percent in the second quarter of 2017 to 16.8 percent in the third quarter – a four percent drop.

About 5,000 new jobs were created in the third quarter of this year, according to the figures.

However, Chastanet lamented that the percentage drop for youth unemployment is not as significant.

He explained that the government is currently coming up with a number of programmes that will assist younger people.

“The apprenticeship programme that we are doing – getting young people involved in call centres, the work we are doing in agriculture – and I think you are going to see a substantial amount of empowerment.

“When we were in Mexico there was something I saw that I loved – basically it was an App that younger people can get, they would go on the piece of land that they have and the App would tell them through a satellite reading what that land was suitable for,” the Prime Minister told reporters.

He disclosed that the App also supplied information in relation to yields and here supplies could be obtained.

“I am working with the development bank on several projects – one is the Village Tourism which is to put a support mechanism in so people can open small guest houses, small shops and also vendors – we are looking to create a  whole system that would create more entrepreneurs in our society, using tourism as a vehicle for that,” Chastanet, who is a former Tourism Minister observed.

“We are doing the same thing in agriculture where we are now going to be issuing  contracts to people so that  they no longer have to guess what they have to grow.

“They will know what they have to grow, what price they are going to get – the Extension Officers will now focus on them in terms of helping them improve their overall skill sets. Those are again things that will be targeted at the young people in our society,” he noted.

The Prime Minister also spoke of a ‘revolution’ in education.

He asserted that it must be accepted that the current education system is not delivering to the public and therefore not making a significant contribution to economic growth of Saint Lucia.

Chastanet spoke of the need to re-tool the nation’s teachers as part of the process of change.

“When we are seeing some of the more successful countries in the world, the common practice is that everybody is upgrading their teachers, so  the idea that a teacher could come right out of high school and do two years of  training at Sir Arthur (Lewis Community College) and become a certified teacher is not a high enough standard. We need to raise the standard of our teachers,” he declared.

“If you have a bad curriculum but great teachers, I think you can be very successful. But if you have a great curriculum and bad teachers, I don’t think you are going to be successful,” Chastanet said.

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