Prime Minister Freundel Stuart feels satisfied that Government’s wages and salaries bill has been reduced by “process of modest retrenchment” of an estimated 3,000 public officers in 2014.
However, speaking in Parliament yesterday during debate on the 2016/2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, the Prime Minister raised concern that its pension bill was still too high.
While explaining that “there’s been a kind of bunching of retirements” since the Democratic Labour Party took up office as the baby boomer generation, which joined the public service in the 1960s, has left, Stuart said: “The result of that is between the year 2000 and the year 2016, Government’s pension bill has doubled.
“That’s another metric to which we have to pay careful attention because as people retire pensions become payable, so this is another area of expenditure that we have to watch,” he told fellow legislators.
Amid a strong call this week by his predecessor Owen Arthur for there to be further cuts in the size of the civil service, the Prime Minister said his Government’s immediate focus was on stabilizing Barbados above all else.
“We stabilized, we took some hard decisions, decisions by the way, that the previous administration was encouraged and advised to take,” he said, pointing out that “as long ago as 2001 there was a report on the desk of the people that mattered in the Government of Barbados that the public service was too large and that it should be reduced by 10,000 persons by the year 2010.
“It wasn’t done, we have not gotten rid of 10,000 people, we haven’t gotten rid of 5,000 or six [thousand] people as I hear being said, but we have done a modest retrenchment in our effort to get a manageable public service. That’s why the savings on the wages and salaries bill could be accounted for,” Stuart said.
The public sector retrenchments were part of a home-grown structural adjustment programme implemented by the Stuart administration in an effort to turn around the economy, which recorded 0.5 per cent growth last year. (MCW)