The Democratic Labour Party has declared the Barbados Optional Savings Scheme (BOSS) a pay cut disguised by a cute phrase and a troubling indication that the austerity programme, BERT [Barbados Economic Recovery Transformation Programme], is “dead in the water”.
DLP president Verla DePeiza charged that yesterday’s press conference continued to reveal a troubling trend of Government dropping its heaviest burdens on workers.
“Any time the default mode is to hand over less earnings than bargained for, it is a pay cut. And it throws up several questions,” declared DePeiza in a press release titled A rose by any other name is a pay cut.
She said: “It is a ‘boss’ move, but still a pay cut. And it is not fair and reasonable for public servants to bear this burden alone. If the bonds are truly such an excellent bargain, open up the issue to all comers. And in any event, public servants will warm to the concept more once they learn that the ministers, consultants and MPs will not be opting out of the bond issue.”
The DLP president was responding to the details of the Government’s most recent economic plan, which promises to save both public and private sector jobs by diverting a percentage of the salaries of government employees into capital works projects.
DePeiza suggested: “BERT is dead in the water and in need of reformulation. It is now a millstone about our necks, as it forces public sector cuts in order to fund a capital works programme.
“The economy is in need of rejuvenation but short term capital works projects just keep us spinning in one spot, when our economy needs a deeper type of stimulation, and diversification.”
The Government’s senior economic advisor Dr Kevin Greenidge promised that employees who could not afford further salary deductions would be allowed to opt out of the bonds, which could be bought by any other private citizen or business.
But DePeiza argued: “Dr Greenidge gave the ‘out’ for public servants when he stated that it does not matter if one opts for the bonds or not, a bond will be issued in each case. If you choose not to take the bonds, the government will still issue the bonds but pay you your cash and it becomes as if you had traded them to the Central Bank of Barbados. They get their bond issue anyway.
“The books reflect that a salary reduction has taken place, when in reality the salary potentially remains the same, but is recorded in two separate line items. And think about it: if the bond issue is so great why is it not pitched to the business and banking classes, or even the wider public? Why are the contractors not being paid in bonds at least in part?”
DePeiza also questioned the existence of a market for the bonds in an environment where financial institutions have already started reporting dismal earnings in the first quarter.
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