A Call To Cut Public Sector Workers

Ryan Straugn, President of the Barbados Economic Society

Recently on a Voice of Barbados Talk Show – the government was a no-show – president of the Barbados Economics Society Ryan Straughn stated that government needs to retrench civil servants if it is serious about cutting public expenditure. The government’s fiscal strategy has come under pressure from many quarters in the last three years. There is concern that government’s fiscal deficit needs to be more aggressively managed. It is a fact public sector wages is a significant slice of government’s budget. Clyde Mascoll represented the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and did not challenge the statement uttered by Straughn. BU remains flabbergasted that such a weighty pronouncement by lead spokesman for the Barbados Economics Society (BES) would not have generated significant debate in the country. Traditional media, unions and general populace continue to be consumed by the Alexandra matter.

One is left to speculate why Straughn’s suggestion has not been challenged, supported or discussed by others. It is understandable why the BLP would dippsy doddle around the issue with a general election on the horizon. The same cannot be said for CTUSAB and specifically the NUPW, the trade union which represents the majority of public sector workers in Barbados. Bear in mind Cedric Murrell, the head of CTUSAB as recent as December 2012 served notice that it will press for a public sector wages and salaries agreement in 2012.

The government’s policy position on the matter is known, it intends to protect jobs. In fact Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart defended the need to protect the social fabric of Barbados at the  monthly luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) at the Hilton Hotel yesterday [25/01/2012]. Whether one agrees with Straughn, the issue of sending home thousands of workers at this time should stoke debate.

51 thoughts on “A Call To Cut Public Sector Workers

  1. I think Clyde correctly pointed out that Straughn was talking strictly as an economist, not a politician nor a sociologist. As you said David, government’s position is clear and no one in the BLP wants to touch the issue of possible public sector layoffs with a 10 foot pole. Plus with elections around the corner everyone knows this will never happen. I’m wondering though how CTUSAB will negotiate (long overdue) increased wages given the most recent economic outlook and “moderately stable” position we’re in. Any hike in the wage bill will bring challenges and definitely will not go down well with those looking to stabilize or move towards greater growth. Most of us understand that clearly.

    • @Observing

      I think Clyde correctly pointed out that Straughn was talking strictly as an economist, not a politician nor a sociologist. As you said David, government’s position is clear and no one in the BLP wants to touch the issue of possible public sector layoffs with a 10 foot pole

      How does one engage in public discourse about such a serious matter using the lens of only an economist?

      Suppose he was Prime Minister who happened to be an economist would such an approach be worthy?

  2. As I said before, I will say again this is not the time to negotiate wages, this is the time to negotiage for conditions, appointments and to generally aggitate for government to do all to lower the food bill and to lower taxes and reinstate allowances. I really don’t know that the unions does for my money. To push for and increase now who make the union look good now to the members, but do a lot of harm to the country. The union has to understand that lazy public servants (few, not the majority) and outdated laws/rules has served to stagnate the public service, along with boards that stack the statuatory corporations with more workers than it can handle.

    I think that anyone calling for layoffs in the public sector show that they lack creativity, and lack of understanding of the social needs of others, the problem it created at the beginning and end of elections. When the public sector is stacked with workers. Politicians and boards to blame.

  3. @undertaker

    I concur, the union should be insisting that persons whe have been acting for three years should be appointed, like what happened when owen passed the ps act.

    Cost can be cut, if gove look at its antequted systems of purchasing goods and services and the award of contracts etc.

  4. personally, the govt made a grave error in commencing their re-election campaign by embarking from the time they assumed office on a giveaway strategy rather than consolidating despite the obvious and ominous signals of an unstable global ecomic emvironment. that said, i do not believe things can get worse and i applaud them for trying to keep rather than taking away bread from peoples mouths during this difficult period.for that i would give them a second term and see how they operate in a more favourable global economic climate.

  5. you see now People like Struaghn i know people going accuse me of being saying the same thing when it comes to treating people with selof worth. O.k. having said that the people have already sacrified alot with increased prices across the board now to talk about cutting jobs is really heartless. how much can people. i understand the need for bringing the deficit down but that is not the way forwarded maybe more cuts in spending is needed but putting hunderds of people out of work would accomplish very little moreover the money saved would be used to give these people social benefits and the deficit would be increased .let them work and contribute by paying taxes,btw why doesnt struaghn support the govt by demanding private sector to pay their long overdues vat taxes and any other taxes they have defaulted in over the years.

  6. these people have no idea how to run a country.
    why don’t they take a pay cut if things are so bad with their money laundering and total government corruption.
    did they think selling off our Barbados would continue for ever.
    what else can they sell why not start selling people again?????????
    now there is a idea you bunch of no insight idiots.

  7. A scan of the Auditor General Report striking back many years speaks to varying degrees of inefficiency. We can argue if the government should cut staff but the current state of the economy should make this a priority one debate in the country. There is no silver bullet argument.

    Sadly in times of plenty when a reorganization of the public sector would have been the opportune thing to do, we are now reaping the effort of our narrow sighted perspective..

  8. Opposition Leader “Owin’ After” has now added his voice to the issue but not only as an economist, but as a politician too. He has declared that he has the prescription necessary & that it entails a loss of about 6000 jobs in the private sector. That would in fact result in about 9000 private sector jobs being lost when you factor in the “vortex” of employers who would exploit the opportunity to shed labour costs that they can easily carry.

    Owen conveniently makes comparisons in economic performance with 2007. A responsible & scientific mind knows that in a matter such as this, 2007 should be treated as an outlier – IN this case an unusually high factor/measurement due to some extraordinary circumstance.
    Private capital inflows after 2007 cannot be compared with a Cricket World Cup hyped up economy which immediately preceded the world’s worst ever economic recession. Let’s be honest!

    Is anybody going to recognise though, that the Would-be next Prime Minister in Barbados, who paraded in 1994 on a platform of Job #1 is Jobs, and a promise to create 30,000 jobs which he did by padding up the same public sector which is largely unproductive & whose lethargy results in non-collection of VAT,land tax etc?

    Will anybody remember that this want-to-be next Prime Minister is saying to make 6000 families unable to pay their bills, buy food etc? Is anybody going to see that the would-be next PM is agitating for a recovery built on the bones of the more productive sector in Barbados.

  9. David
    Do you honestly believe that as Mr.Mascoll said that Mr.Straughn is a neutral economist?
    I am getting more dissolution with economist all over the world. When the economists here speak and do not factor in what is happening all over the US and Europe with economic growth, then I know they are dishonest.
    Dr. Courtney Blackman to me always make sense with his pronouncements on the Barbadian economy. I prefer his advice than Owen Arthur or Clyde Mascoll. He said we should not be expecting any 4% growth in this time.
    Owen Arthur is asking for a cut in the income tax so as to put more money back into the economy but would that money not be spent on foreign produce goods that will then use up the foreign exchange levels that is keeping us in a stable position

  10. There will be a need to look closely at the public sector wage bill and a decisive determination as to rather cuts in the public sector would be worth while in reducing governments fiscal deficit. However prudence dictates that one must ascertain if the means will justify the end. The outcry from severed servants will increase hostility and result in a burdensome time both for government and those workers who will be placed on the breadline. Or it is time for government to look closely at its performance appraisal reports and make a determination for cuts on that basis. It is a fact that many jobs created by the political elite for the political loyals can be done by one person and in many instances are not necessary. Also they are many civil servants who are mere parasites to the system; problematic and non productive who draw government wages at the expense of those who have to do their jobs and the jobs of these non productive workers. On that basis I say a cut in the public sector would be necessary but only for those workers who deserve to be severed.

  11. @David
    “Suppose he was Prime Minister who happened to be an economist”

    I hope you ain’t trying ta drop a hint hey David. Lol.

    Did anyone get to listen to or scan the two addresses yesterday (Arthur in the morning v. Stuart in the afternoon). Feedback?

    Of interest too was Mascoll’s “declaration” that the BLP has already crafted a tax relief package and economically stimulating policies.

  12. It is clear to me that Ryan Straughn is a talking head, not a thinking head. It is economists like him that have the world economy in such trouble.

    What rubbish is he talking? Is he aware that cutting expenditure on wages and salaries means sending home workers? I hate to have to repeat it: Barbados is just not an economy. When those people go home, where will they find alternate employment? Surely not in the private sector that is already teetering but leaning more on the side of collapsing into turmoil.

    When those workers go home, they still have families to feed and bills to pay. Some will resort to crime, but an increase in crime would deter tourist and what do you expect would happen then.

    People must realise that some of government is social employment. There are those among us who would find it extremely difficult if not impossible to find gainful legitimate employment anywhere. If Government does not find employment for some of them it would forced to provide welfare payments so that those affected would be able to literally survive. At least with employing them you would still get some useful work out of them, rather than have them sit at home and wait for a government cheque just for being there. These theoretical economist don’t think: can you imagine what would happen if you have two healthy adults at home with nothing to do, and no money to buy condoms. Government resources would be diverted to providing pre and post natal care. Get the picture yet egg head!

    Maybe, Straughn thinks that the newly unemployed can just go into the forest and hunt deer. Stop watching so much television. I expected better reasoning from someone who is about to do the Eleven Plus

  13. I said above that some of government employment is social employment in order to provide jobs for those who would find it difficult or impossible to find work. Please don’t get me wrong: I am not trying to provide reasons to justify the size of the Cabinet.

  14. I believe the government’s employment system needs restructuring first then they can think about sending home people…people subing in posts for years and still waiting on appointments, posts moving from one Ministry to another, people in posts doing nothing and posts empty with work to be done…it is just craziness….

  15. It is public sector unions and their membership that has many municipalities the world over in a straight-jacket. Massachusetts will sack 2-4k state workers this year, it can be done in Barbados.

  16. If you earn a dollar you have a dollar to spend, if you borrow another dollar you have two dollars to spend. Tomorrow you have DEBT, have to pay back one dollar plus interest, where does the money come from? Deficient financing only works when you have high inflation rates which are presently not the case. Your only option is to reduce expenditures and in Barbados Socialistic Society model there are limited options, severely reduce the civil service work force and drastically cut social expenditures. Socialism/Communism are synonymous and will not work longtime in a country like Barbados that does not have absolute control of its economy. Barbados is strictly a SERVICE Nation and as such as limited to no effective control of it’s economy on a world scale.

  17. @Adrian hinds

    Where do you really live? Does Barbados have a welfare system where food stamps, and monetary payments are granted, and the rich set up food banks to keep the poor poorer? The duty of government is first of all to the people that elect them, and certainly not to starve these same folks. Get real!!

  18. But mass. has other business that can absorbed some of the bleeding.barbados is limited in so doing and in the overall scheme of things the government would end up in more debt by having to increase its social programs to help those who need it.maybe the unions and goverment can implement a timetable as to when wages would be increase maybe when the econmy start showing signs of improvementbut for the time being it is doutbful that the unions would be bullish

  19. Start by cutting time ……Have a 4 day week for MTW workers. They only work till Thursday and on Friday they do not work because they say they have to go to the bank to get their money. Let Friday be a non working day then.

    Those who are not performing cut their hours like shoite!

    • Islandgirl 246

      If the Government use your formula, they would have to cut the Cabinet in half. Who do you recommend?

  20. i agree with Caswel, except that Mr. Straughn is not thinking like an economist but like an accountant who is merely looking to reduce expenses from the government books. Any economist even a cxc econ student would know that to increase unemployment reduces the money supply and its circulation causing economic stagnation. that is to say no one has money, so no one buying anything, then firms laying off staff, moore people have no money, so even moore people not buying anything and firms lay off even moore people. A downward uncontrolable spiral of doom and dispair. Along with this is a reduction in import duties, vat, and other taxes due to a lack of bnuying , selling , income and profits. Mr. Straughn clearly is a loyal student of the IMF and their brand of failed bailouts. I may be wrong but i cant think of a single developing country that have used these methods and recovered not even natural resource rich Guyana and Jamaica. Maybe Mr. Straughn and friends have that vision for our future.

  21. Government’s job is not to add to the unemployment rate, although tomorrow’s central bank venture in to financial stability will give us some direction. What government should do is privatise some agencies and departments of government.
    Starting with the Government Printery, GEMS, the Hilton, the Transport Board, sell long leases on the Port and Airport. You got the drift.,
    By selling to the workers government would created a share-owning society and give ordinary taxpayers ownership of their country.

    Hal Austin

  22. Government needs to AUDIT its departments’ Human Resources.

    Certainly if the manpower was utilise effectively one can make arguments as to why it should not be trimmed.

  23. WE Barbadians have GROWN tired…we over taxed,we over VAT-ed, we can’t buy gas….um is horrors to live here..WHEN WILL IT END…?
    HOW MUCH MORE CAN WE TAKE.?…..everyday more blunders

    A whole lot of nonsense goes on for years with the so called tax payers money.They ready to put people in Court too.. when you a small man owe lil taxes. But when they owe you…boy is a different ball game.You ever see a cheque coming out the VAT office “with dispatch” or for that reason otherwise ?
    So much taxes and levies and all sorta dog…If people believe $160 million is all that gine get “dispatch”…think again nuff more going disappear,, remember,this is the last calf before election and the (family) got to get feed first..

  24. Hall what you said sounds good in theory but in the event their is another golbal melt down the private sector would downsize and lay off their workers in mass numbers similiar to what is happening in the USA. and the goverment of barbadoswould be left holding the bag.

  25. Why not at least early retire older civil servants with 30+ years of service who would immediately be able to draw a pension. There would be cash savings, even if their pensions are paid out of current government income, and the negative social impact would be much lower compared to compulsory redundancy for younger public sector workers.

  26. But weston when the governnent retire them would the vacanies need not to be fill or do we leave them open which means more dread lock

  27. We heard on the same program that the BLP has already crafted a Tax Proposal to promote spend in the economy. Can we also understand the BLP’s position on cutting public sector jobs? Is it to much to ask traditional media to do? We need to have a national discourse.

    Again the point must be made why was such a profound position taken by the BES and it is as if the statement was not made?

    >>>>>>>>>WASH OUT<<<<<<<<, THE C WORD


    WE VOTING WANNA O U T..that is a promise

    >>>>>>>>>WASH OUT<<<<<<<<, THE C WORD

    Visionary…..What exactly is the C word? Is it the same one Rhianna talks about?

  30. They say you shouldnt judge a book by its cover but Ryan Straughan looks like a puffed up buffoon his utterances are more suited to comedy hour than serious politics dealing with real people and their real bread and butter issues.

  31. Taking no prisoners | January 26, 2012 at 6:59 PM | They say you shouldnt judge a book by its cover but Ryan Straughan looks like a puffed up buffoon his utterances are more suited to comedy hour than serious politics dealing with real people and their real bread and butter issues.

    Welcome – http://www.freemaninstitute.com/lynch.htm

  32. “But weston when the governnent retire them would the vacanies need not to be fill or do we leave them open which means more dread lock”

    In the private sector, management would either ensure that only dead wood was let go with no loss of output or departments would be restructured and individual tasks re-evaluated to create the desired efficiencies. I can’t say whether there is the will or the skills in the Barbados public sector to make this happen.

  33. Right now what the government is doing is correct.there is no sliver bullet tax stimulus has been tried by other governments and failed because it does not go to the root of the problem which is generating jobs and government spending.

  34. @ Visionary, why the first person plural ? You getting more than one vote next election? How long does it take to develop the hubris to speak on behalf of the public?

  35. when i was at the barbados community college many moons ago, i did a year of economics and there and then i said that was not for me. as i progressed, i refused to chose any subjects having anything to do with figures as i realized that people who engage in those subjects dont seem to see the human element in nothing they, in fact they believe that they are dealing with objects and are heartless and ruthless. Yjose are the attibutes that i attribute to economists like ownen, mascoll and straugh. Yhey only see an economy and not a society.

    I have always respected those in the discipline tof sociology, ( i have a bias here ) as the human element is at the core of most decisions to be made or have been made.

    In a society like barbados, which lack material sufficiency you will find that the govt will always be the biggest single employer and i have no problem with apying higher taxes to assist in ensuring that we continue to provide the requiste social services to our less fortunate brothers and sisters, but i aslo believe that a system must be put in place to measure performance regardless of which party employ those persons and when they are not performing sanctions against the non-performers must be enforced., but systems must be established so that outputs can be measured.

    Public Sector employees cannot be retired be fore their compulsory age, so this is not an option. i however believe, that what could probably happen, it a policy of attrition in the public service could be introduced, That is when someone has retired dont replace the person, unless it is absolutely necessary. This would have to attain for statutory boards as well, But can you see polticians not ensuring that the retiree is replaced. I certainly dont think so

    What has bappened over the years is the interference of politicians. Sadly to say, a lot of persons owing vat should find themselves in the hotel at dodds, but when persons were about to move on certain companies owing the crown they were warned against moving forward, similary in the income tax departmen. Until public officers are allowed to their jobs, we would not see improvement in the collection of customs duties, vat and income taxes .

    This interference is prasticed by all parties.

  36. @Blogger2012

    We need to benefit from the learning which ALL disciplines have to offer.

    In your last comment you did not mention the role of the union. To accommodate attrition reorganization would be required.

  37. @David

    you shoud note that i have said i have my bias, you would appreciate that i am quite cognisant of that, and dont you think i want to generate some discussion by being a bit subjective. I am also very very cognisant of the role of the union in any restructuring having spent so many years around the union when i was a young man.

    You see i am not personal. lol.

  38. If government cut jobs now it will have a ripple effect in the private sector.

    laid of government workers do not spend money so businesses will lose “customers”.

    Barbados is a small country so laid off workers cant travel to find work.
    If I did not have a job in Toronto I could drive a 100 miles to find work.

    Government should tread carefully before laying off tax paying, consuming employees..

  39. Simple analysis. count the number of jobs advertised ti the daily.
    newspapers, multiply by 3 and that will tell you how many possible jobs are available in Barbados.

    How many students graduating and looking to enter the workforce every year?
    How many of them find employment?

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  41. @Weston

    “In the private sector, management would either ensure that only dead wood was let go with no loss of output or departments would be restructured and individual tasks re-evaluated to create the desired efficiencies.”

    Except the Employment Rights Act will prevent them from doing this without costing them more than most of them can afford. This single piece of legislation has locked-in both inefficency and low productivity forever

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