The prime minister has announced that his administration will address the country’s fiscal deficit by reducing spending, with or without the consensus of stakeholders.
Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony told media operatives on last Friday (May 9) at a discussion on the current economic situation that every measure possible will be used to come to an agreement with stakeholders on a way forward on the matter.
However, Anthony recalled that Dominica tried that route under the leadership of its late prime minister Pierre Charles and had to abandon it and opt for a reduction. He said Barbados had to abandon consensus as well and go by legislation and so has Jamaica and Bermuda.
“Our approach is to go the route of consensus and to arrive at common ground, and if common ground cannot be found, then the government will consider its other options,” Dr Anthony added.
He said government must find $75 million to improve its financial standing that can guarantee prudent management of the island’s economy in the future.
He explained that the state of the financial markets and the increasing distrust of instruments’ by governments have drastically changed. Therefore, the island must look to position itself to withstand these trials.
Meanwhile, the prime minister reminded that the issue at hand involves the entire economy, noting that it requires, “extraordinary patience and understanding.” However, he said that an early decision on this matter is needed.
“I did say to the unions that we cannot engage in discussions impetrating… that discussions have come to come to an end at some point, and if of course, if we don’t find agreement then the government will have to act to protect the country,” he asserted.
Further, Dr. Anthony said as minister of finance he has a legal obligation to ensure that a budget is put in place as early as possible to authorise the disbursement of funds to continue all projects under the administration.
“I have never expected to have one meeting with public sector unions and you would arrive at a position soon enough. We did not provide a proposal to the public sector, but we shared information and welcomed their suggestions on measure they think government could use,” he added.
Asked why his government is now moving to make adjustments to public servants salaries, when in a 2007-2010 labour agreement a 14.5 percent increase was granted, PM Anthony said that move was a commitment that was followed through by the previous administration.
“If the then government committed itself to paying a 14.5 percent increase then morally it was bound to pay that … but when the 14.5 percent was given, that signaled the commencement of the depth of problem in the public service,” he explained.
Statistics from the Ministry of Finance indicate that the current deficit will rise and the gains from last year will be lost, if government does not adjust wages. Government has since presented trade unions with options to reduce public servants salaries by 10 percent, seven percent or five percent.