By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
INTERMITTENT public service firings stand to create a “snowball effect of fear and pandemonium,” according to Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) President Gowon Bowe, who has urged the Public Service Commission to take a centralised approach to the government’s stated restructuring efforts.
Mr Bowe said the private sector was keenly eyeing reports of terminations in the public service, adding that the firings will only shift the government’s burden from one pocket to another unless economic initiatives are fully espoused and implemented.
Mr Bowe said: “It creates a snowball effect of fear and pandemonium. If all the ministries are doing a survey of their needs assessment, there should be a central statement saying we see the need to disengage however many persons, and these are the reasons why, and these are the initiatives or opportunities so there’s a calming effect.
“There should be a conclusive statement so we’re very clear on how many we’re disengaging over a period of years, and stating this is how we do so to ensure impact is minimal.
“This way we achieve both aims of right-sizing but also ensuring that they don’t negatively impact the average person’s reliance on a paycheck,” he told The Tribune.
Mr Bowe underscored the need to develop and positively reinforce a culture of saving in the country as many Bahamians were living paycheck to paycheck.
“It’s either on the payroll or Social Service benefits. Shifting the problem from one pocket to the next doesn’t solve it.
“If you don’t stimulate activity for the private sector to absorb them, you’re going to pick up that expense somewhere else. The culling or trimming down has to be done in the mindset where certainly the jobs that are not warranted, those should be terminated and if they were only done for short-term political gain they should be looked at. But more importantly how is the government stimulating short term and long term economic activity?
“What are the low hanging fruit that you can go after, like helping small to medium businesses so that as you have the right-sizing and restructuring of the civil service, that the impact or the blow is minimised by the private sector’s ability to absorb them.
“What needs to be carefully laid out is how they plan to do this,” he said.
Mr Bowe’s comments follow the termination of at least 27 employees from the Ministry of Tourism this month.
Last Friday, the Ministry of Tourism confirmed that 16 employees were terminated - 13 from New Providence, and three from Bimini.
Redundancies in its Grand Bahama office earlier this month affected 11 persons.
Fifteen persons were let go from the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation last week. An official in the Minnis administration said the workers were pre-election hires and were sent home because their contracts were up.
Mr Bowe said the intermittent nature of the firings create fear and an opportunity for the matter to be used as a political football to distract from the government’s agenda.
He added: “It may be wiser for the Public Service Commission to lay out that these are the submissions from the various ministries, this is the total we’re going to be disengaging, and these are the programmes we put in place, whether its resume writing, apprenticeship programmes, to soften the blow of the necessary move.
“It’s not beneficial to do it piecemeal.”