Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018
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DPM: More govt job cuts on the table

Peter Turnquest.

Promising to restore order to the public service, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the government is still in the process of rationalizing pre-election hires and suggested that the exercise will result in the shedding of more jobs in the public sector.

Turnquest’s comments followed recommendations from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the government to trim its wage bill, among other things, in order to bring the country’s deficit down to desirable levels.

In its 2018 Article IV Consultation with The Bahamas released on Monday, the executive board of the IMF noted that The Bahamas has turned a corner in terms of improvements to its fiscal sustainability, but advised that its continued fiscal consolidation, with a focus on reducing current expenditure, should focus on trimming the government’s wage bill, turning SOEs self-sufficient and reforming the country’s “unsustainable civil servants’ pension system”.

Speaking to the IMF’s report outside of Cabinet, Turnquest said these were things the government has known since coming into office.

“We have consistently been saying that the last administration, it bumped up the public service to unsustainable levels,” he said.

“We have, as you know, been trying to rationalize the new hires and those on contracts, those that we can move off of the public payroll, in an orderly [way] and a way that gives those persons involved a safe landing. We’ve been trying to do that.”

Turnquest said the government continues to be “cautious” about hiring and trying to rationalize service.

He also noted that the government has been trying to move people around in the public sector to ensure that it is getting value for money and that people are being productive and have a career path.
“One of the unfortunate things about these contracts that have been given out in the last administration is that there’s no career path for these people and so they were just in low-paid minimum wage jobs, with no hope of being hired and no future,” Turnquest added.

“So, we are trying to see if we can restructure some of that, rationalize it and bring the civil service back into some kind of order and put these people in productive positions so that they can have a chance at having long-term employment.

“Others we are trying to train so that the job empowerment program, that was initiated some years ago, that, that actually becomes effective, because it has been at this point, just a place to park people to justify giving some service or some contribution.

“We want to make that a true empowerment program so that people at the end of the 52 weeks do have, in fact, some skill that they can go off into the public service or into the private sector and contribute in a meaningful way and build lives for themselves.”

According to Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle, the government’s payroll ballooned by $16.5 million in the last five months of the Christie administration’s term, which is $6.4 million more than the initial assessments revealed.

Rolle also announced last year that the government was assessing 126 reengaged pensioners with a view to disengaging them.

Asked directly, whether Bahamians can expect terminations in the public sector, Turnquest said yesterday, “Certainly not as a result of anything the IMF would recommend.

“We, as I said, are doing our own internal reviews and trying to rationalize for ourselves, where we see people and the service levels that we need.”

Asked how many terminations can be expected, Turnquest said, “I know that there are constant reviews being done; that there are contracts that are coming to an end all the time, some are being renewed, some are not, depending on the need of the various ministries and agencies. I suspect that will continue.

“What numbers we are talking about, I couldn’t say.

“These are very careful decisions we make based upon human resources recommendation and the needs within these different agencies.”

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