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Antigua's civil service wage bill up by $5m.

ST. JOHN’S — The country’s crippling civil service wage bill has soared by $5 million – which flies in the face of International Monetary Fund targets.

Finance chiefs had promised the IMF, whose cash injections are keeping the local economy from the brink of collapse, that it would try to slash its annual wage bill by one fifth.

But, just four months away from the new fiscal year, alarming figures reveal Antigua & Barbuda is failing to keep its end of the bargain.

As the country’s largest employer, government wages currently consume around half of its overall expenditure.

Meanwhile, national debt currently stands at $2.7 billion, as revealed by finance chiefs on Wednesday.

From January to June 2012, government spending on wages rose 3.8 per cent to $136 million from $131 million for the same period in 2011. This news came from Minister of Finance Harold Lovell at Wednesday’s press conference.

“This increase was due to employment of new teachers and upgrades to salaries and allowances for staff in various government departments,” he reported. “In relation to the upgrades, the upgrades were largely driven by contractual arrangements which we were under an obligation to fulfil.”

The government received IMF monies in June 2010 after signing a Stand-by Arrangement which set cutting government’s wage bill as one of its targets.

In a memorandum on economic and financial policies 2010-13, dated May 24, 2010 and addressed to the IMF, the minister of finance said, “We envisage a 20 per cent reduction in the government’s wage bill from 2009 to 2012, which would reflect improvements in efficiency of the civil service as its employment and the wage structure are rationalised.” (Antigua Observer)

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