Busuttil casts doubt on jobless figures, claiming inflated public payroll

NSO data shows joblessness down to 2,889 but private jobs created since 2013 are over 21,000 compared to 2,570 inside the public sector

Simon Busuttil (second from left) with a PN delegation at the Chamber of Commerce
Simon Busuttil (second from left) with a PN delegation at the Chamber of Commerce

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has questioned whether unemployment statistics released by the government can be believed, during a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce.

“Unemployment is down to some 3,000 people, but is this the real figure?” he asked.

The latest unemployment register figures released by the National Statistics Office shows that the number of persons registering for work stood at 2,889, compared to 4,710 in January 2016.

But Busuttil said that the government has put “several thousands” people on the public payroll when they could have been better utilized in the private sector.

According to the latest gainfully employed data available on the NSO website, the public payroll increased by 2,570 from 41,919 in 2013, to 44,489 in August 2016 – the latest available data. Private sector employment increased by 21,000 since 2013.

The same data also shows that employment in the public administration sector alone increased by 1,276 since 2013 to over 13,000, slowing down since its 14,000 high in 2014.

Busuttil said that with a general election only a year away the country was at a juncture where what it needs most is serenity and a situation where people “do not have to wake up and check the news on the latest political scandal.”

The Opposition leader also stressed the importance of a level playing field for the business community, something he said is currently missing.

“We are at a stage where the business community fears that a level playing field has been lost and only a few select individuals are getting what they want,” he said, while also acknowledging that this was not a new occurrence in local politics.

Responding to remarks by Chamber president Anton Borg on a proposed increase in minimum wage, which Borg said was not based on facts and risked serious economic repercussions without necessarily eradicating poverty, Busuttil said that he has an obligation to stand up for what was right. “People who are earning a minimum wage cannot get by. It isn’t possible to live on €700, or less,” he said.

Borg also warned of the potential negative repercussions of certain stories being reported internationally, adding that this was especially true in the case of vulnerable sectors like the financial services.

Busuttil said that it was sad to see such reports however, he said, the solution is to ensure that “we do not create reasons for there to be such reports.”

Earlier in the meeting, Borg laid out several of the Chamber’s proposals and concerns including the excise duty on cosmetics introduced in the last budget, the economic cost of traffic congestion as well as concerns over good governance and its long-term economic implications.

He noted that it was positive that the opposition was continuing with the recent trend of opposition parties publishing their proposals well ahead of an election and appealed for government to act more like a business in the way it implements electoral pledges.

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