The tenor of public debate about where the government will cut 400 million has become interesting to follow in recent days. Can we pick up the conversation from before the general election when the platform cry by the government was that public sector workers will not be sent home? A few months later, and as recent as today, we have had to listen to the head of two unions address the prospect of government slashing public sector jobs.
First up this week we listened to an incoherent position from Dennis Clarke of the NUPW. He suggested that public workers have not enjoyed a pay increase in recent times, and with trending inflation, public sector workers have suffered a reduction in spending power. He went on to suggest the NUPW will not support any initiative to cut public sector workers. He acknowledged that although the government is having a cashflow problem, one option available to avoid sending home workers, is to dismantle at least one statutory board which he did not reveal. Perhaps Dennis Clarke, the head of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), is privy to the content of a report which the government commissioned with the brief to rationalize statutory corporations. Does Clarke understand that rationalization through mergers of government agencies must of necessity displace jobs?
Today on the news Pedro Shepherd, head of the Barbados Union Teachers (BUT), appeared to have taken a defensive position by suggesting that the teaching service will be the last sector to be touched by a cash strapped government. How the hell does he know what the government will do?
It is a moot point to debate whether any right thinking Barbadian would want to see people sent to the breadline. However, there is a reality of now which cannot be ignored. The government has been borrowing to pay salaries which is an unsustainable position. If the government is committed to maintain staff levels, what are the options?
The reality of now is that we have a burgeoning current account deficit which has also eroded the external position. In a simple descriptive, the economic is on life support and immediate interventionist measures must be taken NOW.
No pain no gain.