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Gov't told: Privatise now!

Barbados’ professional accountants today intensified calls for Government to divest some of its assets.

President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados, David Simpson, said “major” health care services and transportation were two areas the state should consider reducing its involvement in.

The cost and size of government was simply too much for the country to handle, the official said, but he said ICAB was not calling for employee retrenchment in either the public or private sector.

Simpson was speaking to the media this morning at his organisation’s Hastings, Christ Church office.

“Whether we are talking Transport Board, we are talking health care services, we are talking CBC, whatever it is, government has the ability to say ‘Look, we no longer need to be involved in funding and providing this service on our own, we can form a partnership, an alliance, we can divest and give persons the opportunity to do so’,” the president stated.

“There are … solutions and options … available to any government and I think that is where we need to be looking at because … the more things government takes on and takes the responsibility for providing, the larger the operational bill is for government, and the larger that bill becomes somebody needs to fund it and I think it is clear who has to fund it — it is funded through taxation.

“I think at the end of the day what the focus has to be on is what value do we want these institutions to provide to the economy and to the citizens and at what cost are we willing to do this,” he added.

Simpson said Government’s role in areas including health care and transportation could be to “create the infrastructure and the enabling environment in which these things can occur and we can have partnerships”.

“Because you divest something to the private sector it does not mean that there is no room for regulation of the price or the service … and I think that’s probably one of the fears that people have — if government doesn’t fully own an entity or provide a particular service the cost would become too astronomical and out of the reach of the average citizen,” he noted.

“It calls for us to sit down and look at solutions. I am one heavily in favour of the divestment, especially where it may enable not just the private sector but existing public sector employees to have the opportunity to own their own businesses and offer these services that government would have traditionally offered… I think government can retain partial ownership in some entities.

“Government doesn’t necessarily in today’s world need to be involved in the provision of every single service and I think there are areas where Government can indeed privatise and divest itself of its interest in certain organisations and … this doesn’t mean retrenching of staff or anything, but there are mechanisms to do it,” he added. This would include privatising some companies and retraining the staff or to “divest companies to the private sector where staff are simply transferred from public sector to private sector”.

“Part of divesting itself may be to provide the opportunity for current public sector employees to engage in entrepreneurship by taking over certain services and providing them to central government and the public at large,” Simpson said. (SC)

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