Retrenchment is rising in Trinidad and Tobago and the figures may not be accurate.

The Labour Ministry received 2, 262 retrenchment notices from January to October – but the unemployment rate may be “significantly higher” than what’s been reported to the ministry, Labour Minister Stephen Mc Clashie has confirmed.

Speaking in last night’s 2021 Budget debate in Parliament, Mc Clashie said the 2,262 figure had exceeded the annual retrenchment figure for the last five years, adding the ministry received 1,207 notices in August alone.

Mc Clashie said 225 notices came from the real estate, insurance and financial business sector and 470 from retail, wholesale and restaurant sectors.

But he said he recognised that places like groceries and mall shops, which have also been cutting staff, wouldn’t send notices to the ministry.

“Therefore, the unemployment rate may be significantly higher than reported to the ministry, so I don’t want us to be in la-la land thinking the reported figures are the whole figure … the truth needs to add realism to where we are,” he said.

He said prior to the COVID pandemic, T&T’s employment rate was very low. Saying it was a difficult time, he noted Government’s policies and programmes, adding, “All is not lost.”

Meanwhile, UNC MP Dinesh Rambally called for Government to reconsider salaries and exemptions for ministers and MPs, since he said it is difficult to celebrate things when “we see our fellow men suffering.”

Rambally said COVID-19 has become Government’s scapegoat for its problems. He also wasn’t convinced Budget policies would produce the desired effect.

“The Budget is a stuck cassette player replaying the policies of yesteryear,” Rambally said.

Rambally said the Education Minister’s contribution “sounded like the product of a PNM education …. I call it PNM brainwash 101.”

PNM PoS South MP Keith Scotland, who said it was impossible to insulate T&T from COVID, paid tribute to his predecessor Marlene McDonald. He noted it was the first time in 13 years she hadn’t delivered a Budget contribution.

“I recognise her for her sterling contribution to this House and the people,” Scotland said, adding ingratitude was worse than witchcraft.

UNC MP Rudy Indarsingh also questioned whether Government would implement the recommendations of the 10th Actuarial Report on the NIS system, including freezing NIS pensions.

Debate continues in the House today.