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NEW YORK – The price of joblessness and cutbacks

Tony Best

NEW YORK – The price of joblessness and cutbacks

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“We are no worse off than any other country, and better off than most in the wake of the worst global economic and financial downturn in recent memory.”
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler was speaking in Parliament Tuesday where his budgetary presentation was received.
In the above excerpt he broke a cardinal rule: never make a claim that leaves you open to someone pointing to a single example to prove you wrong. Barbados is certainly worse off than Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Luxembourg, to name a few.
But although Britain remains much “better off” than Barbados, last week’s events in three British cities where youthful rioters and looters vented their frustration over inequitable distribution of wealth or to display their thuggish behaviour, the upheaval forced Britain’s leader, David Cameron to describe events as a “wake-up call”.
A few weeks before the riots, David Paterson, until recently governor of New York, warned that economic conditions, especially joblessness and sharp reductions in budgetary allocations for social programmes for young people might have unpalatable consequences.
“The unemployment rate among African American and Afro-Caribbean people in the City of New York is now at a depression level of 16 per cent,” he told the WEEKEND?NATION. “The unemployment rate among African American and Caribbean immigrant youth is 30 per cent. The unemployment rate among African American males is significantly higher.
Now, what can we imagine those African American males, 60 per cent of them, are going to be doing with their time? There are no programmes. There are no added educational opportunities, there are no vocational opportunities.
“If you have any group with that kind of unemployment, you are going to see spiking waves of crime, greater gang activity and a rise in anti-social activity.”
Paterson admitted he had to slash state spending by more than US$20 billion in three years to meet the legal mandate of a balanced budget. The saving grace, though, was that he ensured that the rich and the poor “shared the sacrifice”.
Sinckler and his Cabinet colleagues, who may have to do some budget cutting of their own if they are to narrow the deficit gap, should also heed Paterson’s words about pain-sharing.
He should also listen to Cameron, who in response to the outbreak of violence, pledged that his government would “turn around the lives of the 120 000 most troubled families” certainly before the next election.
Cameron’s reference to an election might have struck a responsive cord with Sinckler who may have an election to fight next year.
Indeed, his Budget suggests an election isn’t too far away.