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Tewarie: Jobless rate below 6%

By Julien Neaves

THE LATEST unemployment figures for this country is just below six per cent, reported Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie.

He was speaking on Wednesday night during the Senate debate on the Finance Bill 2013 at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

Members of the Opposition have repeatedly questioned the unemployment figures released by the Government and expressed the belief that it is understated.

Tewarie in his contribution reported that the unemployment figure for 2012 was 5.8 and 5.2 in the previous quarter.

"It is not likely to be increased in any significant way over time, given the state of the economy and the sense of what is happening in the unemployment sector and what is happening in terms of employment," he said.

He also announced that on February 19, this country's national census will be officially launched as the report is ready and at the printers.

He noted the census usually takes place about ten years apart and the process usually takes about two years; the last census was in 2000.

Tewarie said that census would be available online as the Central Statistical Office (CSO) launches its website.

Responding to concerns from Opposition Senator Dr Lester Henry of possible tampering with CSO figures by Government, Tewarie said there was "no interference whatsoever".

He also announced that a week after the census is released they will present the national performance framework which will be followed by a performance report of the Government in 2012 on its five priority areas.

Tewarie also responded to concerns raised by Independent Senator Helen Drayton earlier in the debate about the lack of procurement legislation. She noted it was a promise by the Government but it continued to have million-dollar projects, like the extension of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway to Point Fortin, without any new procurement legislation similar to the previous administration.

Tewarie noted there was a Joint Select Committee on the legislation, it reported to both Houses of Parliament and both agreed, and a policy was adopted.

He said the policy was sent to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC) and the Attorney General's office for it to be turned to legislation. He noted that they attempted to "quicken" the process by seeking support from the Inter American Development Bank and getting a consultant to work with the policy to do the first draft of the legislation.

Tewarie said the matter was sent to the CPC and it is now before the pre-legislative committee for some re-drafting, and then ultimately it will come to the Legislative Review Committee and then to Parliament.

He expressed hope that by the end of March the legislation would come to Parliament, though it was not under his control.

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