Several union leaders appeared on The Morning Show this morning to ventilate the various issues and factors surrounding the disapproval of the government’s proposed salary cuts. President of the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, Sharon Fraser explained that the association has met and has disapproved of the ten percent pay cut, the increment freeze and the taking away of some benefits. She added that there are several other measures that the government can take to close the deficit.
Sharon Frazer, President, APSSM: “The situation is that we know that in fact there are some medium term and long term things that government can do but there are also some short term things that they can do and I heard some colleague said government seems to just not want to do the work. We have pointed out several cost savings, we have pointed out several revenue enhancement that they can implement now. Yes some require infrastructure, some require amendment of the law but they are a super majority that shouldn’t take long to do if it is that it requires the passage of law. At the end of the day though we are not saying that we are not prepared, we are just saying that if they don’t put the necessary infrastructure in place so that we are not back at the same place that we are now. I can recall when we were at the stage where retrenchment was before us, I can tell you I was a part of a family who suffered from retrenchment, my mother was a teacher and she was retrenched during that time. Now here I am now at this age and we’re looking at basically the same fiscal position that we might have been then or even worse. We are not irresponsible, as unions we understand that something has to be done but it must be that there is a commitment to put certain things in place. Clog up the holes, put things so that the level of corruption that we’ve seen will not ,and the leakages, will not be there. So we are not saying that absolutely no but it can’t be that we will say okay take 10% of my salary and then you continue hiring new people, you continue hiring each minister has an aid, even me a senior public officer I don’t even know what an aid does and why is it that we are paying for that. And there are other things so you can’t tell me that I’m to make that sacrifice or convince my members to make that sacrifice when I’m not seeing other sacrifices and I’m not going to sit here and say that even though there was a moratorium on new hiring I’m not going to sit here and say there should be absolutely no hiring because there are some areas in which they need to make replacements, there are some areas in which they need to do certain things but you will tell me that every ministry needs a communications expert ? What are they communicating about and what happened to the Press Office for example ? I’m just giving you some examples these are things that we’re seeing.”
First Vice President of the Public Service Union (PSU) Dean Flowers goes on to speak on the country’s fiscal deficit saying that the matter supersedes politics and the red and blue. He added that the financial crisis always seems to fall back on the backs of the public officers who were not responsible for the country’s mismanagement.
Dean Flowers, First Vice President, PSU: “I think that is is very important that we clear up some of the propaganda , if I can use that word, that is out there. The debt crisis that we’re currently in, the budget deficit that we’re currently in is a thing in the making over the last forty years. So I want to make that clear that this is not a UDP problem, this is not a PUP problem this is PUDP creation. We’re not coming to the UDP or we’re not coming to the PUP to fix it, what is happening here is that they’re coming to the public officers once again as they did in ’98, as they did last year and as they’re doing this year to fix it when we’re not the one creating these financial crises that this country repeats- I mean it’s a crisis that continues to repeat itself. I want to state also for the record that when the Barrow Administration took over I believe that was in 2008, remember Belize was having difficulty borrowing money such in 2010 the IDB forced upon Belize the fiscal transparency and responsibility regulations and I want the Belizean people and public officers to look at that legislation which I found during my research. The Fiscal Transparency and Responsibility regulations passed in October of 2010, that regulation mandated that the Financial Secretary does a midyear report on the performance and prudency of the financial management of this country and that he explains how it aligns with the fiscal strategy of this country which also has to be published annually and explain any deviation and also give a comprehensive report on the revenues and the expenditures, on the assets, on the liabilities and including in that report the fiscal position of every single statutory body which are listed in that regulation has to be published. Now that midyear and that end of year report which is law, it’s SI 95 of 2010, if the then opposition – now government – and if the now Finsec – then Finsec – was doing their work we would have been able to monitor this thing from January 1st 2011 up until now and also part of the regulations mandates that he publishes it on the government’s website and that he publish it in the gazette – none of this is happening and we’re here now wanting to hold public officers accountable for a crisis that could have been managed. So my question is if you look at I believe section 44 of that legislation it calls for disciplinary action and I want to know what this administration will be doing and so these are the kind of legislation that we will be putting forward. In this case we thought we had to introduce such a legislation when in fact one already existed which apparently was hidden somewhere no one knew about it.”
Vice President Flowers says that while the government is proposing cuts and measures to close the fiscal gap, he says there is no transparency as to how the deficit is being tackled.
Dean Flowers, First Vice President, PSU: “On the expense side the only figures you’re provided with is $60 million coming out of salary cuts, $20 million coming out of increments, $25 million reduction in goods and service that’s $105 million dollars. We’re talking about a deficit of $500 million dollars and we’re talking about a budget in terms of expenditures of $1.3 billion dollars. The plan is void of any real sense of direction, how we will even achieve the -.32 that they’re proposing for this year and then thereafter they said next year we’ll be at .1 and in 2023 we’ll be in a surplus – how do you make any sense of this plan which only quantifies ? In my view this is a direct attack on the public servants of this country because there is nothing to quantify how we will improve or sustain the revenue inflows or any other proposal in terms of how we do other reduction. Yes there’s a good write up on “we’ll talk to the Republic of China Taiwan” but these are all assumptions without no real figures. And so we’re not prepared to give up this $80 million simply because you have , it would appear you have, I mean the emotions the Prime Minister expressed two days ago it would seem that you have a vendetta against the public service and so people are making sacrifice so unu have to give up the 80.” but sir if we give up 80 you’re saying we’ll borrow less but in the same vein you’re saying that all the unnecessary expenses that you continue to incur, the wage bill that you yourself continue to maintain high with the unnecessary hires. Last night he spoke about having two vehicles, these minister’s aids they don’t do any work for the public service they do work for the minister so why shouldn’t the minister pay his aids? I have no problem with the security details. Then you want us to forgive your 13/50 motor vehicle but you want us to pay fuel for another vehicle and we’re already paying fuel for your vehicle so that’s two vehicle that we’re fueling sir so we have to be fair. There’s no equity in this proposal and two the proposal – the projections to the path to recovery makes absolutely no sense and so we want better numbers, better explanations in terms of how we’ll do that because if we give up the money I can guarantee you we’ll be right here back next year with a budget as somebody told me for every single year Belize has a budget deficit so what is this “the sky is falling.”