EDITORIAL: More equity of treatment with lay-offs
GOVERNMENT’s economic policy since late last year is aimed at reducing the size of the country’s public service as part of an overall goal of lowering expenditure. This is in accordance with the ongoing agreement the country has with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where fiscal consolidation and a primary balance of six per cent are seen as ideal for improving the country’s fiscal position.
Other targets such as a debt to GDP ratio of about 60 per cent by the year 2033 and restoring economic growth to a depressed economy are said to be goals which the present Government wants to achieve.
Even as the size of the public service is being reduced, there is the view in Government circles that the aim is to make the public sector leaner and more productive, although how this will be achieved continues to be debated by those who are very opposed to what is being done.
Since the onset of the IMF programme, more than one thousand employees in the public service have been laid off. The number of job losses continues to mount since additional cuts have been taking place so far in 2019.
The target right now is the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) which have been heavily criticised. These staff cuts and enterprise closures/mergers will continue until the Government thinks that it has reached an optimum level for what it believes will be ideal and what it wants to achieve.
However, some critics of the Government have suggested that what is really happening is that employees who were believed to be appointed by the previous administration are the ones losing their jobs and are being replaced by another set which fits the same category of politically appointed. Furthermore, there are charges that those at the lower round of the salary scale are making way for consultants, and that sending home these lowly paid employees can in no way make the Government books look better.
A lot of things have been said about the Barbados Public Service, employees and some of the agencies which are Government owned. These range from allegations that the service is unproductive, it is costly to run, there are inefficiencies within SOEs, and that the huge amounts allocated annually in the form of Transfers and Subsidies to prop up the enterprises remain a burden for the Government.
Former Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Dr. Delisle Worrell has repeatedly focused on the public service in the Economic Letters he produces every month. He blames Barbados’ uncompetitive position on an inefficient public service and wants Government to carry out a comprehensive reform of the public service. To him, services which are required to make investments happen are taking too long to deliver.
This has contributed to Barbados’ low rating in the World Bank’s Doing Business Survey, a barometer that is put out annually to test how countries are shaping up to attract foreign direct investments.
Everyone wants to see a better Barbados, but a lot of people do not want one segment of society to carry the burden while another remains untouched. There has to be more equity in this.