Sacrifice demands that Gov't lead by example

Friday, February 15, 2013

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IT'S heavy — this $16 billion in new taxes being imposed on us by the Government. There is no doubt either that it will hurt most Jamaicans. After all, many of us, particularly PAYE workers, are already overtaxed.

The fact, though, is that the Government has little choice, having participated in unrestrained borrowing and irresponsible fiscal policy of successive Administrations that have taken us to this sorry point in our history, with a debt of more than 140 per cent of gross domestic product.

Take, for instance, the current Administration's reckless ballooning of the public sector wage bill by engaging the services of so many consultants. Last year it emerged that eight Cabinet ministers had employed a total of 40 consultants and executive or personal assistants at close to $100 million in salaries annually.

This from a Government that has been asking the Jamaican people to make sacrifices, given the parlous state of our economy.

Then, as if that were not enough, the Administration decided to rub salt in the wounds of the suffering public and weakened economy by spending $60 million on new luxury sport utility vehicles for members of the Cabinet, only to turn around and tell public sector workers that they 'can't stick up a bruk man'.

We listened to the joint national broadcast Monday night by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, acknowledging the necessity of their plea to Jamaicans to make sacrifices for the betterment of the country.

We agree with the prime minister that "success can only come from a truly national effort". We also share Mrs Simpson Miller's view that Jamaica's only way out of this crisis is for the Government to take "extraordinary measures with the urgency that the situation demands".

We therefore join the Administration in appealing to Jamaicans to put country above self in this effort to get out of the economic malaise that has afflicted us for too long.

However, we issue the same call to the Government which, we insist, must lead by example. Therefore, the Administration should, as a first step, tell its consultants that their contribution to this national effort is to give up their contracts. Each ministry, after all, is staffed with competent technocrats who are capable of giving advice.

Next, the Government needs to move swiftly to cut the millions of dollars it is spending each year on rent by moving its offices, agencies and departments into publicly owned buildings. There is a lot of empty Government-owned office space downtown Kingston.

The prime minister should also restrict overseas travel, whether by Cabinet ministers or by public servants. In fact, foreign travel should only be approved in instances where modern technology cannot substitute for face-to-face meetings.

In addition, the Government needs to stop awarding contracts based on loyalty to the ruling party, rather than proven competence, as well as the staging of unnecessary social functions.

These are some of the examples that Mrs Simpson Miller and her team must set if they expect the public to buy into her appeal that we are all in this together. These are the examples the Government must set in order that, as Dr Phillips said, we may "seize the moment, not just for ourselves, but for future generations".




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