The government has no idea why unemployment in Colombia is rising or what to do about it, the country’s controversial finance minister admitted.
In a press conference with the central bank’s president on Friday, Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla said that “I still do not fully understand what happened or what are the best measures we can take to correct this” when asked about Colombia’s high and growing unemployment rate.
According to statistics agency DANE, unemployment in June was 10.5%, up 0.8 percentage points compared to the same month last year and up 1.7 percentage points since June 2016.
“It would be irresponsible to go out and make suggestions when I am not a labor expert,” Carrasquilla said.
When the minister subsequently suggested that migration from Venezuela was driving up unemployment, central bank president Juan Jose Echavarria stepped in and specified that “job offerings are going down. There are problems with growth and the creation of businesses. This undoubtedly is affecting the job market in the country.”
This is the second time that Echavarria publicly clashed with Carrasquilla this year. The finance minister minister responded furiously last month when the central bank manager claimed the economy had “stagnated” while President Ivan Duque had been claiming he was “reactivating” the economy.
The International Monetary Fund on Monday lowered Colombia’s growth projection to 3.4%, 0.4 percentage points lower than the finance minister’s calculations in his 2020 budget proposal.
Carrasquilla is one of Colombia’s most controversial ministers. His name appeared in the Panama Papers as one of the Colombians allegedly evading taxes through off shore companies through Panama.
Furthermore, he enriched himself through an investment scheme he legalized when he was minister of former President Alvaro Uribe that brought almost 10% of the country’s on the brink of bankruptcy.
Colombia’s unemployment rate is historically one of the highest in the region and has been going up since 2015, a year after a global drop in oil prices severely slowed down the country’s economy.