Jamaica: Jobs safe
The man expected to take over the reins of the finance ministry in a few days is promising that there will be no massive job cuts in the public sector.
Dr Peter Phillips, who has been Opposition spokesman on finance, yesterday asserted that it is neither practical nor prudent for public-sector workers to be sent home, in the face of the economic realities in Jamaica as well as the demands of the public sector.
He told The Sunday Gleaner that plans were in place for members of the new government to be sworn in early this week.
Dr Phillips stressed that while it is early days yet, he could say with certainty that a heavy redundancy programme was not being envisaged.
“We have not had any briefing about the situation with respect to our public finances and other things, but I think it is also very clear that there is no prospect of massive layoffs in the public sector,” Phillips said.
He said the majority of public-sector workers are currently assigned to areas of health care, education and security and could not be relieved of their jobs on a whim. “Any notion of massive layoffs would be something that would devastate the entire standard of living of the country,” Phillips stressed.
Public-sector workers have, over a protracted period, been nervous, with some telling The Sunday Gleaner that they stayed clear of last Thursday’s polls because their fate hangs in the balance with both parties saying very little on the issue.
Concerns have been mounting since the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reportedly stated that the public-sector wage bill should be reduced from 11.9 per cent of GDP to nine per cent.
Accordingly, Phillips said one of the first orders of business is to look at the existing programme, as no information was supplied by the outgoing administration to the country.
“We still haven’t got any information about the nature of any commitment that has been given in this regard and the status of discussions between Jamaica and the International Monetary Fund or any other organisations, so we are going to be proceeding,” he said.
Phillips stressed that the focus of the new government is not on job cuts but to ensure that it operates with optimum efficiency. “We must ensure that the public service delivers with efficiency,” he said.
Asked specifically about any impending plans to reduce the public-sector wage bill in line with reported IMF stipulations, Phillips said this is among the issues that the PNP government would raise with that agency.
“We have indicated that we need to engage in talks with the IMF about a programme … this programme of the Jamaica Labour Party administration was clearly off the rails. So we cannot make any comment on that before we reach to having those discussions and seeing the actual status of things.”
Phillips also sought to clear the air on a comment by prime minister-designate Portia Simpson Miller in relation to the promised talks with the IMF within a two-week period. “We couldn’t conclude any discussions in two weeks, and anybody who thought that just wasn’t thinking,” he said. “It’s quite simple that we expect that within the first two weeks of January we would have made contact and begun discussions with the IMF regarding a new programme,” he said.
Phillips told The Sunday Gleaner that economic growth and job creation remained the most pressing concerns of the new government that takes office within days and suggested that there was no place for honeymooning this time around, given the urgent demands being placed on the Portia Simpson Miller administration.
“The most pressing need for the country, and at the forefront of our concerns, is the question of economic growth and employment. We have to grow our way out of this debt. We will not be spending irrationally or recklessly because the resources just do not exist for that,” he stressed. “But the priority must be to restore hope on the basis of sound programmes which will generate jobs for the Jamaican people.”