Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has now gone silent on the 3,000 public workers who the Freundel Stuart Administration told the country would start going home from today.
And Minister of Labour and Social Security Senator Esther Byer-Suckoo is not saying a word publicly about the layoffs either.
During the break of a Barbados Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors seminar at Savannah Hotel this morning, Sinckler told reporters he had nothing to say on the layoffs.
The minister, who had months before announced the retrenchments in Parliament, informed the journalists that they may “get something” if they went to the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s luncheon at the Hilton, which the Prime Minister addressed later. However, Sinckler did have a lot to say about the economy and Government’s fiscal position during his feature address to the insurance professionals.
He warned of tough decisions that had to be taken, in order for the Government to achieve greater fiscal discipline to consolidate the public accounts.
“We must drive policy imperatives that demand from ourselves, greater fiscal dciscipline to consolidate the public accounts.
“This will necessarily entail tough, but necessary decisions, many of which we have outlined both in the August Budget and again, supplemented in December,” the minister noted.
“If we follow this course we will achieve our targets in reasonable time and in a manner that restores full confidence, arrest any further deterioration in our international reserves account, and put our debt on a firm downward trajectory.”
Sinckler told the association that the Government must forge ahead with a clear and concise reform agenda in the public administration, which seeks not just to reduce costs across Government, but to make it more efficient, facilitating of business and adept at changing to suit the circumstances that present themselves.
“This process, we have already begun and should be further accelerated in 2014 with the restructuring of the 19 statutory entities mentioned in last year’s Budget, together with the establishment of the Barbados Revenue Authority in April, and a new National Procurement Authority later this year,” he asserted. Sinckler said that central to this new economic environment and equally as important, would be the maintenance of a strong regulatory and institutional framework for the financial and insurance sub-sectors.
“To maintain financial stability during these challenging times, four elements have become paramount: having a strong regulatory and supervisory framework; enhancing the institutional structure and capacity building; increasing financial surveillance and risk management; and finally having a coordinated approach to regional and international levels of regulation.”
In response to a question from the floor, the Minister of Finance warned that government may have to tread carefully in offering future tax concessions to individuals and businesses. Sinckler said his administration had already paid out a staggering $700 million in rebates, concessions and tax reductions to citizens and companies.
Of this figure, he added, $400 million represented discretionary concessions which did not go to any productive endeavour.
He assured that while he would look favourably to granting incentives to the life insurance industry to encourage young people to invest in their future, this would evidently impact Government’s “weak” revenue.
Meantime, the Labour Minister also refused to speak on the issue of the layoff after this morning’s launch of the TVETC Online, a website of the Technical and Vocational Educational and Training (TVET) Council and magazine at the Warren’s Office Complex., saying “I have no comment” when approached.
Hours later, at the same building where the activity was held, some employees of the National Housing Corporation were given their marching orders.