One of Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s key economic advisers today offered a firm assurance to Barbadians that Government’s planned public sector layoffs will not be in the order of 4,000 workers.
At the same time, strong indication was given that if Government were to follow the advice of some 5,000 ordinary Barbadians as it embarks on the restructuring of state owned enterprises (SOEs), at least 1,000 workers will be laid off in the first instance.
The results of an online survey were released today by Mottley’s advisory team led by Ambassador Dr Clyde Mascoll and including other leading economists, such as Dr Kevin Greenidge, Governor of the Central Bank Cleviston Haynes, Director of Finance and Economic Affairs Ian Carrington and Professor Avinash Persaud, who are also leading the Barbados Economic Recovery Transformation (BERT) plan.
Addressing reporters at Government Headquarters this afternoon, Persaud was the one who pointed out that “some have said that we should sack 4,000 workers. It is the teams view that that may solve one problem but only by creating many others”.
This is in light of recent suggestions made by former Governor of the Central Bank Dr DeLisle Worrell that a total of 4,500 workers should be cut from the public service over a three-year period.
Without referring to Worrell by name, Persaud said such a move would “break our society”.
“We cannot get to the road of success by breaking the society. That is a road to strife, it is not the road to success and so the Barbadian part of this Barbados Economic Recovery Transformation is to share this burden evenly,” he said.
Also addressing today’s briefing was Greenidge, who is on secondment from the International Monetary Fund for the next two years.
Greenidge could not say precisely how many workers would likely be displaced, but of the 40-plus state owned entities (SOEs) identified in the survey, he pointed out that “at most about 1,000” of the 2,823 employees would be affected.
However, he said assistance would be offered to them under the Retooling and Empowering, and Retraining and Enfranchising, or RE RE, programme.
“A household mitigation unit would be set up to ensure the burden of any displaced worker is handled in a very caring and compassionate manner [and] no two persons from the same household of bread winners, for example,” he said.
Among the major recommendations coming out of the unscientific survey carried out during the first two weeks of August were the merging of several SOEs, including the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, the Barbados Government Information Service and the Printing Department for an estimated saving of $3.7 million.
As part of Government’s rationalization programme, respondents also suggested that the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex should be absorbed into the National Sports Council, while the National Housing Corporation, the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Rural Development Commission (RDC) should become one entity.
There were also a suggestion of a hike in bus fares by the Transport Board and the introduction of user fees at the Registration Department.
It was recommended that Government should renegotiate transfers “unrelated to fees” with the University of the West Indies, and turn the Hospitality Institute into a public private sector partnership. The School Meals Department would be run as a special purpose vehicle while the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation would be enfranchised and/or outsourced.
It was further recommended that the Barbados Conference Services Ltd and the Barbados Defence Force sports programme be removed from the Consolidated Fund, while the Cultural Industries Development Authority is absorbed into the National Cultural Foundation, and the National Initiative for Service Excellence and the National Productivity Council absorbed into a competitiveness unit in the Social Partnership.
Another key recommendation was that the Student Revolving Loan Fund be outsourced, while the Barbados Agricultural Management Company and the Barbados Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation are rationalized, and the Caves of Barbados sold.
“The internal target is to reduce transfers and subsidies over the [18-month] period by about $115 million. But I must stress it is not about the number, it is about making the SOEs and the public sector fiscally fit for purpose,” Greenidge said, explaining that “when you go to efficiency you may lose some here, gain some there”.
He also said Government would save about $41 million in fiscal year 2018/2019 and another $70 to $75 million the following fiscal year. [email protected]