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Gov't still looking at cutting 10,000 jobs

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 14, 2012    

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CABINET Secretary Ambassador Douglas Saunders says that the recent removal of 3,000 posts from the civil service establishment was a cleaning-up exercise which would not result in any savings in the current budget or affect the 10,000 jobs targeted under the previous Government.

"The 3,000, as I understand it, represent posts that have been removed from the establishment and which have been vacant for some time," Saunders said in response to questions from Opposition spokesman on finance Audley Shaw during last Wednesday's meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), which is looking at recent developments in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

Asked by Shaw whether there would be any saving in the budget from the removal of the 3,000 posts at this time, Saunders said "No, not at this time".

"So, any suggestions from any quarter that there is a saving in the budget from those 3,000 posts would be inaccurate, because it is not in the budget at this time," Shaw persisted, in an obvious reference to indications by minister of finance and planning, Dr Peter Phillips, in the House of Representatives that the removal of the posts would create savings in the budget.

"No. I think that they are cleaning the slate with respect to posts which have been vacant for some years," Saunders said.

Saunders clarified that the 3,000 posts were not related to the 10,000 posts which former Prime Minister Bruce Golding had, in his May 2011 budget speech, announced would be cut from the establishment over the next five years, as part of the public sector Master Rationalisation Programme (MRP).

Golding had announced the move as part of efforts by his Government to save some $40 billion to $50 billion primarily from staff reduction and privatisation and outsourcing of certain functions to help meet public sector wage to GDP targets. He said that greater benefits were expected from improved efficiency and productivity as well.

Golding also explained that there were 118,163 persons employed in the public sector and that the five-year rationalisation programme would reduce the figure to 108,000 persons, but that retirees or persons eligible for early retirement would account for a large percentage of the reductions.

Saunders said that the projection was that if all the proposals and recommendations included in the MRP, which was tabled by the previous Government, were to be implemented, there would be attrition.

"There is an effort being made to find ways of not necessarily replacing all persons who leave the service for one reason or another; whether retirement, resignation, whatever. And ways and means are being pursued to try to utilise that means. But (in terms of) the proposals to which you refer, it was estimated that approximately 10,000 posts, over five years, could be removed as a result of the various proposals in relation to outsourcing of certain services, of amalgamation of certain entities, utilisation of the shared services model on a much wider basis and, of course, a better structure," Saunders informed the committee.

Asked by Shaw if there were any changes to those projections, Saunders said that, as is usual with a change of Administration, matters which are not yet implemented are subject to review, and the review is currently taking place.

He said while he could not predict exactly what the outcome would be, a process has been undertaken under the direction of the Cabinet, whereby the Transformation Unit has reconsulted all ministers, permanent secretaries, agencies and ministries to determine whether there were any changes desired, and a revised set of recommendations have been prepared, which are currently being considered.

However, asked by Shaw whether the revised recommendations would impact on the recommendation to remove the 10,000 jobs, Saunders said, not at this point as it was still being reviewed. He also added that while the process announced by the former Government in May 2011 took some time in planning, the current focus is not to wait until the total MRP is ready for implementation.

"So, I think that what you will find is that as agreements and consensus are arrived at on various elements, those will be put forward for implementation or continuation of implementation," Saunders said.

He added that various segments need to be brought to Cabinet as soon as they are signed off on, and the executive has established a committee on public sector transformation, chaired by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, to deal with the issues.

He noted that there is also an informal process supporting the effort, in that a sub-committee with relevant technicians and officials is pursuing, on a priority basis, the matters that are urgent. The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for later this month and it is expected that a number of matters will be readied to be put to the Cabinet for decision.

He said that in terms of the 10,000 job cuts, it is likely that it will be placed in the medium-term framework, and would then coincide with any new arrangement made between the Government and the International Monetary Fund, and would commence in 2013, instead of 2012.

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