The Mia Mottley-led Government will be launching its new jobs initiative by the end of this month for retrenched public workers.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn said this morning Government will begin registering them in the next couple of weeks.
“Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be asking those persons who would have been already retrenched to start their process of registration as suppliers for Government, such that we can meet the 20 per cent of Government’s procurement over the next four years,” Straughn told Barbados TODAY.
He pointed out that this was the Government’s way of easing the financial burden now resting on the shoulders of those who were once sole bread winners or who contributed to the upkeep of their homes.
Straughn re-emphasized that the retrenchment exercise was not a numbers game.
“The reason why we say it is not a numbers game, is from the perspective that, given the thrust to encourage a lot more entrepreneurship, we believe that once persons are able to come onboard, with respect to registering as suppliers and getting into the tendering process with respect to gaining that 20 per cent of Government procurement, then we believe that that is a key transition point,” Straughn told Barbados TODAY.
He explained that the transition from being jobless to being an entrepreneur, allows Government to use its policy of not running arrears to pay them promptly. He also expects that the new business owners would be able to expand their services beyond the public sector in the coming years.
“Given the fact that over the next few years, Government cannot run any arrears, it means that anyone supplying Government would be paid…and it allows these persons then, to be able to, in a sense, start their businesses supplying to Government, At the same time, they can also supply to the rest of the private sector or anybody else outside of Barbados,” he stated.
Straughn said Government expects to see a number of new small to medium-sized businesses emerging in the island over time, as a result of this jobs initiative.
“That is part of the reason why we say it is not a numbers game in terms of persons that may be laid off. These are the policies that we are putting in place to make sure that on the one hand, there is a mitigating factor with respect to procurement, but at the same time, it really is an opportunity to pivot to allow persons to realize that the work they can be involved in, obviously is much more entrepreneurial,” he explained.
“We certainly anticipate we will see a number of small to medium-sized businesses being built up over the course of time,” Straughn reasoned.
Having completed phase one of the structural reforms last year that involved over 1,000 job-cuts from Central Government and some state-owned enterprises (SOEs), Straughn disclosed that everything was on track to finish phase two by the end of this fiscal year in March.
“In terms of implementation, some of it might have already . . . We had articulated, we needed to make sure that once we hit April, that what needs to be executed would be executed,” he said.
He noted that as Government goes through its estimates process to meet the beginning of the 2019-2020 fiscal year in April, it is receiving updates on the implementation plans of some SOEs.
“Obviously it would have implications for next year’s budget. And everything appears to be on track. But we are just making sure that we are able to maximize as much of the savings that we can, in order to be able to continue to meet our targets,” the minister told Barbados TODAY.
He said most of the state enterprises were now deep into the implementation aspects of how they will function going forward.
“And I think that over the next few weeks, you will be seeing more activity with respect to announcements for some RFPs [request for proposals] go out relating to some of the small ones [SOEs]. Some of the more critical ones you are going to be seeing over the next 12 months,” he disclosed.
Straughn also assured the country that while the Government was focused on meeting its timelines under its loan arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it also intended to ensure taxpayers did not have to continue propping up SOEs, which could be better managed or supported outside of the public purse.
“There are a couple of things that need to be followed up on with respect to, for example, the Garbage and Sewage Contribution . . . [this] allows the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA) to be able to operate off [independently] of the Government’s budget from April,” he stated.
He said there are therefore a couple of other entities such as the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI), which should also function independently of state funding as a result of revenue coming from the new Airline Travel tax and arrangements to be privately-managed.
“Things are at varying points and certainly by the end of this month, we will have a clearer picture in terms of what is left to be done for phase two, which is up until the end of March. But we are also keeping an eye on the continuing roll out of some of the reforms relating to the phase three state-owned enterprises, which is really more relating to the Barbados Water Authority, Transport Board and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to a lesser extent,” Straughn said.