As the Mottley administration gets ready to restructure the public service, leading to job cuts, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn is already suggesting a target for trimming – the Cabinet.
Franklyn complained that the size of Cabinet was itself a strain on the Treasury, saying that if she was serious about spending cuts she should start by cutting two-thirds of the 30 ministers, ministers of state and parliamentary secretaries.
“You have a situation where now every little item on a portfolio you get a minister for. So that protects the Prime Minister from a backbench rebellion but it takes some money out of the Consolidated Fund that should be there. They should be on the backbench and go and look for a job,” Franklyn told the Senate today.
He argued that the only ten portfolios that were needed were: Labour, Health, Education, Finance, Agriculture, Office of the Prime Minister, Office of the Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, Public Works and Ministry of Trade.
“Every other ministry that you have could fit into one of these,” the outspoken Upper House parliamentarian declared.
While laying the Public Service (General) Orders 2018 resolution in the Lower House on Tuesday Mottley indicated that some “serious decisions” would have be made about the structure of Government to save the ailing economy under phase two and phase three of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation Programme.
While stating that coming job cuts were inevitable, Mottley promised it would not be a callous exercise and may include voluntary exits for some workers.
But as the resolution came before the Senate today, Franklyn insisted that those being sent home should not be “the people who are living from pay cheque to pay cheque”, as he accused the last administration of doing when it sent home more than 3,000 workers back in 2013/2014 in order to save more than $140 million.
“They wanted numbers and they get rid of some numbers, but let me tell you how to fix these numbers,” Franklyn said today in an apparent recommendation to the Mottley administration.
“Permanent Secretary makes six times the salary of a person at the bottom of the salary scale,” he said. “Right now we got more permanent secretaries and more ministers than we need. So start at that level. Take out some of these ministers because some of them got jobs but no work. And if these ministers have jobs but no work, his permanent secretary and deputy permanent secretary and his [administration] and finance officers got the same thing – jobs but no work,” he argued.
Franklyn concluded that Mottley deliberately made the Cabinet the size it was, saying it was in an attempt to avoid putting people on the backbench so they did not cross the floor, given the Government’s one-party rule of the 30-seat Lower House.
“So you put everybody on the front bench to make them Cabinet ministers but that cost money. So if you are going to send home people, take them out of the Government payroll that are not necessary,” he said.
The senator also suggested that if the Prime Minister was looking for other places to cut she should get rid of ministers within ministries and use parliamentary secretaries instead.
“You don’t appoint a minister to assist a minister. There is no junior minister in Barbados you know, and senior and junior depends on salary . . . all ministers get the same amount of money . . . so you’ve got two ministers in the ministry and one working junior to the next. That is a joke,” he said.
He also questioned hiring practices within Government, accusing both main political parties of giving jobs to associates, friends and families, or making last-minute changes to qualifications in order to accommodate them in various posts.