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No Decision 'Yet' On Shedding Civil Service Retirees

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The government had made no decision “as yet” on whether it will seek to cut the $670m civil service wage bill by shedding all public sector workers who have reached retirement age.

K Peter Turnquest, in brief messaged replies to Tribune Business questions, said “fundamental decisions” have yet to be made about next week’s 2020-2021 budget which will set out the government’s short and medium-term plans for tackling the combined economic and fiscal fall-out from Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.

Voicing optimism that the government will successfully be able to obtain the debt financing it needs from both the Bahamian and international capital markets, Mr Turnquest described next week’s presentation to the House of Assembly as a “very pivotal budget once again in terms of the medium and long-term outlook”.

He denied, though, that any binding decision has been made to retire all civil servants who have either reached the 65 years retirement age or been in the public service for over 40 years as a means to cut the government’s wage bill.

“No decisions have been made in this regard as yet,” Mr Turnquest replied. To bring the government’s costs in line with vastly reduced revenues as a result of COVID-19, many observers have argued that the Minnis administration must reduce recurrent (fixed) expenditure, and the civil service wage bill - together with $83.815m in allowances - remains among its largest expense line items.

Kimsley Ferguson, the Bahamas Public Services Union (BPSU) president, told Tribune Business in a recent interview that retiring all those who have reached 65 or possess long service records was “speculation”. However, he revealed that Mr Turnquest had informed him that Brensil Rolle, the Cabinet minister with responsibility for the public service, planned to meet with the BPSU chief at some stage.

“I’m all ears at this point,” the BPSU chief said. “At this point I’m waiting to have a discussion with the Government regarding how they’re going to approach whatever. If recommendations are made, and consultations held, the union will use that as an opportunity to make its recommendations that it thinks will be in the best interests of members.”

Mr Ferguson added, though, that the union “wouldn’t take kindly to anybody coming and suggesting they’re going to cut public service salaries without any consultation”. He said: “Given the circumstances that the country is facing, and the public sector being the ones keeping the economy afloat, I don’t think it would be a wise idea for the Government to do that.

“While they may explore other areas, I don’t think they want to consider that one at this point. That’s not something the union would endorse. As it relates to salary cuts that’s not something the union is in support of. If they’re looking for funding we can sit, consult and come up with ways of how they can implement other cost-cutting measures that may be necessary at this juncture.”

Comments

DDK 1 week, 4 days ago

If the retirement age for civil servants is 65, or 40 years of employment, what is the union's interest?

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moncurcool 1 week, 4 days ago

The union leader says that the public sector is the one keeping the economy afloat. Has he been in lockdown that long that his head jammed? Does he not realise it it the bloated public sector that is killing the country financially? A public sector that suppose to be working form home and you can not even get them to answer an email? There again we see another union leader trying to kill this country.

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geostorm 1 week, 4 days ago

Yes, these union leaders are a major problem in this country.

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tetelestai 1 week, 3 days ago

Moncur, based on your usually level-headed, intelligent comments, surely you are not so obtuse to see that - at the moment - if it were not for the civil service spending money, that this country would be even far worse now than it is. You have to keep the civil service employed at the moment. Once things return to our new normal, then we can go back and "right-size" the service.

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moncurcool 1 week, 3 days ago

Help me, as I appreciate good level dialogue. Do we have empirical evidence that the civil service spending is what is keeping this country going?

The Union leader in my estimation is making a statement with no fact, only for the purpose of trying to keep the bloated civil service. I am not one for pushing for laying off of people. However, I am one for pushing that the bloated civil service with people double dipping so often with retirement and consultant fee need to be dealt with. In fact, those one already on retirement and getting another salary form government can be let go right now. What is there worth? That is the original angle I was coming from.

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bcitizen 1 week, 4 days ago

There are some hard working, smart, civil servants out there. About 10% who actually do work. The other 90% have been given a job just because, for votes, political connections etc. We would be better off if the Bahamas did a Universal Basic Income and got all of these people who really do no work out of the government offices and let them sit at home. Let the 10% who do try and give a damn work more efficiently. They would get more done without the others there sucking up oxygen working harder to not work than if they just did their job, The government would probably even save money. Less desks, less office spaces, less computers, less overhead all around, less theft of office suppliers, toilet paper etc. More efficient government services and less need to pay extra for services (bribe), would help the overall economy. Stop creating more government just to employ people just pay them to sit home!

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tetelestai 1 week, 3 days ago

Respectfully, bcitizen, no, the government would not save more money. And no, the economy would not be better off (notice, I said the economy, not strictly the government budget - which, actually I am not convinced would be better off either). And no, the country would not be better off.
What you are proposing is political rhetoric and not at all based in economic - I repeat, economic - fact.

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bcitizen 1 week, 3 days ago

Part of my comments were sarcastic but, you think we can continue to create more government just to pretend that we are employing these people who do little to nothing but, only get in the way and demoralize the people who actually work and create an extremely inefficient bloated civil service? We almost have UBI now. I am not a fan of UBI but, we are subsidizing these people anyway under the guise of a "government job"

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