A step in the right direction is how president of the Barbados Economic Society (BES), Jeremy Stephens, has described Government’s decision to cut public sector jobs and salaries of some Government officials.
In a ministerial statement in Parliament last Friday, Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler announced that approximately 3,000 public sector workers would be sent home between January and March next year. This was in an effort to plug a $143 million annual gap.
The workers will come from Central Government and statutory corporations.
Sinckler said too that Government Members of Parliament, permanent secretaries and personal assistants were taking a ten per cent salary reduction.
However, speaking on behalf of the BES, Stephens said the cuts may have come “a little too late”. He also expressed concern that the entrenched workers would need to be re-absorbed back into the workforce, adding that there was a need for a contingency plan.
“We at the [Economic] Society are not surprised by the decision that the Government decided to take, particularly the cut of 3,000 workers within essential Government and the statutory Government,” said Stephens.
“So we recognize Government is using this as a recovery point. We, however, think the timing might have come a little too late for this. Nonetheless, we believe that the cuts were necessary. We also believe that there should be some measures of reallocation within the public service. We understand there are quite a few departments that could use the manpower to get things done more efficiently, especially seeing that the Government has begun to focus more on business facilitation going forward,” he said.
Stephens said he anticipated some “far-reaching implications” for the economy if the thousands of individuals were not re-absorbed into the workforce. He said there could likely be a drop in aggregate demand and spending.
Stephens said there was therefore an urgent need for a short- to medium-term plan to be put in place in order to help with overall economic recovery.
“What can these 3,000 people and others who may become marginalized as a result of dropping demands in the economy, what can they do? What opportunities can be provided for them? Can an investment be allocated to them to go into business perhaps?” said Stephens, asking if it could also be possible to make some funds available to some start-up businesses or small firms to help those affected get employment.
“So we also recognize that there should be some measure of investment to help prop up the economy going forward. If it is a matter of Government doing so, that is one side to look at it . . . . However, it should be noted that for the economy to perform we recognize the need for these marginalized workers to be absorbed somehow back into the economy, [if] we want to encourage entrepreneurship . . . . We need to see some contingency put in place to see that these cuts work the way they are supposed to,” added Stephens.
“With respect to the ten per cent cut [in salary],” said Stephens, “we understand the need for senior Government officials to show a level of solidarity.” marlonmadden@ barbadostoday.bb