Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine is confident that if Grenada stays the course that it is on in respect to its Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) then there will be no need for retrenchment of civil servants.
He made this statement, during a recent joint press conference involving government and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the Conference room of the Ministry of Finance.
Antoine acknowledged that the public service was over-staffed and in time will be reduced in numbers.
“Now let me be clear, in respect of the size of the public service, the size of the public service is going to come down by virtue of the efficient policy which is three for ten”, he said.
“…I am speaking about that for every 10 persons that leave the system, only three will be replaced, so that’s a way of bringing the numbers down overtime and then of course with the wage freeze that is in place the attrition policy, those are things (that are) intended to reduce the wage bill in absolute terms, well in real terms but also to see the numbers come down”, he added.
Former PS in the Ministry of Finance, Dr. Brian Francis who is now a senior Lecturer in Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is predicting retrenchment at some stage to address the huge monthly wage bill.
Dr. Francis had correctly predicted mass lay-offs in Barbados under the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) government of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
According to Antoine, the country is putting fiscal responsibility legislation in place through an act to be brought to Parliament around the end of the year in order to address the fiscal gap.
“That’s an important reform because what it does, it puts on all of us a certain framework that it constrains in terms of our spending”, he told reporters.
“…We have said that in our discussion with the social partners, no body wants retrenchment, government doesn’t want to do it, labour unions certainly don’t want it, business community is saying that it’s not a good idea…”, he said.
PS Antoine pointed out that the easy way out of the current situation would be a cut in the public service but that in itself can impact negatively on the country.
“We have to find an alternative way to address our fiscal imbalances which is why we have to do some taxes which nobody likes but that’s what everybody has to do, which is why we have to do our very best on non-personal expenditure, telecom, electricity, water, fuel, overtime and all those other things”, he remarked.
“…It requires vigilance, I mean the price of eternal freedom in vigilance, nothing is guaranteed unless we maintain our dignity to recover and that is not just government, it’s everybody in Grenada,” he said.
The senior civil servant announced that the monitoring committee is playing an important role in ensuring that Grenada stays on course with the programme and does not succumb to any pressures to go outside of the framework.
“I am being very candid with you, I am not staying here feeling that this problem is solved and we can just go away and relax, it requires vigilance but I’m confident that if we stay the course with the framework that we’ve developed that we actually can do this thing and this could work to serve Grenada very well.
“One of the reasons why we’re very keen to make sure everybody knows what’s going on is that if there are any adjustments required in the course of the programme, whether it’s on the revenue side or the expenditure side, we all must be on the same paid sheet.
“It must come as no surprise to anyone – every month we publish the results, every month we have a meeting with the Monitoring Committee and they review, they grill us and so on and of course the IMF comes every 6 months.
According to Antoine this process is necessary so that in case the government has to resort to retrenchment the stakeholders will be fully aware of what is happening.
He said this is so because if it happens that government has to retrench, it would come as no surprise to anyone since “we would have seen the situation and know well that is what we have to do”, adding that, “I think we all are working to avoid that kind of situation.”