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Civil Service Expansion Labelled ‘Mind Boggling’

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Robert Myers

• Growth likened to ‘gouging hole in Titanic’

• Governance reformer: Govt does ‘opposite’

• Warns putting nation ‘into even deeper hole’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A governance reformer says it is “mind boggling” that the government would abandon previous pledges to rein-in an oversized civil service by adding at least another 1,802 persons to its payroll.

Robert Myers, the Organisation for Responsible Governance’s (ORG) principal, told Tribune Business that the move was akin to “gouging another hole in the Titanic” by further increasing the burden on Bahamian taxpayers at a time when The Bahamas is confronted by a near-$10bn national debt and annual deficits currently running at around $1bn.

Responding to the additional recruits unveiled by Brensil Rolle, minister with responsibility for national insurance and the public service, Mr Myers said that while he had nothing personal against those being hired the move did not align with the government’s previous pronouncements.

“It’s just mind boggling how they believe they’re stimulating the economy and not taking the easy way out like eery successive government has done, and are just digging us into an even deeper hole,” he told this newspaper. “I just don’t know how they can think this is OK. It’s got to be about private sector growth.

“The public sector is already too big for our economy by 30-40 percent. It’s not just me saying that. Kwasi Thompson agreed with that, the IMF agreed with that, the former RBC economist [Marla Dukharan] agreed with that, and the Oxford Economics report from six to seven years ago said that.

“I just don’t understand why they don’t understand that the writing’s on the wall. It’s just mind boggling how you could do the opposite of what you said, and all the advice given by experts and civil society groups. It’s just mind boggling. They have got to stimulate the private sector, and if they’re not smart enough to do that then for God’s sake get somebody in there that can actually do that,” Mr Myers reiterated.

“Don’t write a report and let it sit on top of the filing Cabinet. Get some people in who understand how to stimulate growth and increase foreign direct investment, especially if we want to maintain the US dollar exchange rate peg. We’ve given them a plan to do it, the Economic Recovery Committee has given them a plan to do it, but don’t talk - act. 

“It’s got to happen otherwise you’ve just gouges another hole in the Titanic. The ship is going down and instead of baling out we’re juking more holes in it. All that is going to do is drag us under even faster down the line or two years down the line. It’s really disheartening; very disheartening.”

Mr Rolle, in his Budget debate communication last week, last week confirmed that the government was further expanding the public sector payroll by adding more than 1,800 persons to its permanent ranks. These included 600 temporary persons at the Ministry of Education, plus 1,102 who are  part of the National Job Creation and Skills Enhancement Programme, also known as the 52-week programme.

Another 600 part-time employees have already been regularised, Mr Rolle added, while the Government will in June and July. retroactively pay public officers money consistent with the increments, reclassification and salary advances they did not receive last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re gonna pay them and we’re gonna make their pay retroactive to the date that they were supposed to be promoted,” he said. The 2021-2022 Budget shows that the civil service wage bill is increasing by $10-$11m in the upcoming fiscal year.

However, this highlights a seeming discrepancy or inconsistency in government policy. My Myers had referred to Senator Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for finance, who told the post-Budget press conference that The Bahamas had “for too long” relied upon the government to be the main employment generator through expanding the size of a now-bloated civil service.

Confirming what many in the private sector have known for years, Mr Thompson said: “For too long we have relied on the government to be the primary source of employment, using public funds as a bandaid for long-standing, acute structural deterioration..... For too long, the government has placed itself at the centre of national economic life.”

When the Minnis administration came to office, it attacked the hiring practices of its Christie predecessor. A Department of Statistics Labour Force survey, released in 2018, estimated that up to November 2017, 2,500 people were let go from the civil service by the Minnis administration.

Mr Rolle last week disputed that figure, having in 2019 told The Tribune that the Government rehired a larger number of the people who were engaged from 2012 to 2017, and subsequently let go when the Minnis administration took office.

After vowing to right-size the civil service upon taking office, Mr Rolle yesterday praised the many hires of the Minnis administration, saying they demonstrated the Government’s record for building capacity. “It shows that we continue to invest in human beings because that’s how we build a country; that’s how countries exist,” he said.

Mr Rolle said between June 2017 and December 2020, 1,600 people have been promoted in the government system. “We hired hundreds of individuals. Now we are promoting them in the system,” he said.

Comments

proudloudandfnm 7 months ago

I give you a job, you vote for me.

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yeahyasee 7 months ago

Really as simple as that. It's not that they don't understand...getting elected is more important

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bahamianson 7 months ago

They do it because it isnt their company gling under. They have a.dont care attitude once their friends, sweethearts, and wives have a top position, and the cycle continues. Next, we need to make a.few of them national heroes. Just a.bunch of crap.

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sheeprunner12 7 months ago

For any Bahamian Government to operate effectively & efficiently, it needs a workforce (like any comapny) ........ However, the triple whammy that our Government faces is WHO is hired, for WHAT, and WHERE ........ 29 inhabited islands make it even worse, as so many services are duplicated ................... ADD the British hierarchy curse, paper-intensive records-keeping, and bureaucratic management systems causes things to (further) crawl at a snail's pace.

So, even though the private sector pundits (like ORG) can complain about the Government civil service, they do not have the challenges to duplicate services on 29 islands and cays with the built-in transportation and communication costs & other problems of a Third World country.

Apples & Oranges debate .......... For what its worth

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birdiestrachan 7 months ago

It only goes to show how much they can lie. the man says if I say I am going West then go East I changed my mind. No sir you lied. you can not be trusted your words mean nothing.

It is too bad Mr: Myers believed the lies. He was duped.

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