The Peoples Empowerment Party stands with the public sector trade unions of Barbados in opposing any proposal to retrench the civil service by jettisoning public service employees!
However, the taking of this position on our part must not be taken to mean that we don’t support the demand that Government must reduce its expenditure.
Our party fully subscribes to the view that Government needs to bring its annual recurrent expenditures more in line with its annual revenue, and therefore needs to reduce its regular annual expenditure.
In fact, it is the PEP that has been in the forefront of urging such remedial action on the dithering and irresponsible Democratic Labour Party administration for several years now!
And we have urged this course of action not as a component of any deflationary austerity economic programme, but rather, as a necessary preliminary step in a programme of economic stimulus and development.
You see, as far as we are concerned, the institution known as Government has to take the lead in piloting the country out of recession. But Government will not be in a position to provide such leadership if Government’s finances are in a state of dissaray!
Thus, our Government must take urgent steps to restructure and strengthen its own finances by establishing a more acceptable degree of balance between its regular annual expenditure and its regular annual income.
So, while the PEP agrees that Government must reduce its annual expenditure, we do not believe that the correct way to do it is to dismiss public servants.
Indeed, our basic political philosophy tells us that all members of our society are equal human beings with the same needs and rights to food, clothing, shelter and health care. So why should we pursue a policy that jettisons members of our society and throws them on the dump-heap of unemployment?
As far as we are concerned, if there are sacrifices to be made, let us all share in those sacrifices collectively, rather than placing them on the shoulders of one segment of our national population.
It is against this background therefore that we now propose a four point programme for reducing Government’s annual expenditure without there being any mass dismissal of public servants.
The PEP hereby advises the current Administration to urgently undertake a rationalisation and trimming of the structures of Government, and a revamping of the work procedures and expenditure patterns of our Civil service — but to do so with the full involvement and participation of the public service workers themselves and their trade unions!
In other words, bring together the mass of workers in all the various departments of Government (along with their union representatives), and challenge them to devise concrete proposals for simplifying work procedures, amalgamating structures and programmes, cutting out wastage, reducing costs, and for identifying workers for whom early retirement might be a feasible option.
Clearly, any programme to rationalise and revamp the Public Service must begin with and be based on this type of worker and trade union participatory process.
Furthermore, one would expect that any such collectively worked out programme to revamp the Public Service would include proposals to deal with the Statutory Corporations — one of the major locations of government expenditure.
If it were up to the PEP, we would develop a fundamentally different management structure for the Statutory Corporations — one that precludes meddling by unqualified politically appointed directors and that leaves technical management decisions to the qualified, hands-on employees.
In addition, we would restructure the mandates of the Statutory Corporations in such a manner that they would not be consigned to be congenital loss-making enterprises that depress and demotivate the spirits of their employees.
But there is also a critical role for people at the highest levels of the public administration to play as well! Since it is clear that there has to be a reduction in the amount of money that Government spends on salaries and wages, we are proposing that the Prime Minister, the ministers of Government, Parliamentary Secretaries, Parliamentary back-benchers, Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Department, and even judicial officers set an example to the rest of the public service and to the country at large, by voluntarily agreeing to a cut in their salaries and a temporary suspension of some of the expensive perquisites and benefits that are attached to their offices.
We are also of the opinion that if — at the end of all efforts at rationalising, revamping, and voluntary high level salary cuts — it still comes down to a choice between a retrenchment of public service workers and a legislated across-the-board salary cut for all pubic servants, we would come down on the side of the latter option.
This option, however, would require a political consensus between the two political parties that populate the House of Assembly, the DLP and BLP, since it would require the passing of a bill that amends the Constitution, and this would require two-thirds of the Members of Parliament to vote for such a Bill.
We also hasten to add that measures to reduce Government’s expenditure constitute just one component of the PEP’s plan to rescue Barbados! Other complementary components include measures to ease the financial pressure on the Barbadian people; reduce our national foreign exchange bill; stimulate local production and commerce; develop the manufacturing sector; put all national assets with foreign exchange earning potential to work; foster close working partnerships between Government and critical local productive sectors; construct a serious Caribbean and Latin America orientation and mission; and foster and fertilise the enabling local environment for national economic endeavour.