Despite Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s recent announcement that Cabinet had not made any decision on layoffs in the public sector, one of his senior ministers is insisting that retrenchments are long overdue.
Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss said this morning his personal view was that sending home public sector workers could not be avoided and should have been done a long time ago.
Speaking to reporters during a regional meeting of ministers responsible for financial services at the Radisson Aquatica Resort, Aquatic Gap, St Michael, Inniss argued that the Government sector had been too unwieldy for far too long, resulting in structural inefficiencies in the economy.
He recommended that Government continue to provide such essential social services as education and health, but turn most other business activities over to the private sector, so it can lead economic growth and development in the country.
Inniss said that stakeholders and policymakers could not continue to bury their heads in the sand, adding that even though they kept saying it can’t be business as usual, that was exactly how they were behaving.
“We have been saying for too long it can’t be business as usual, but I am concerned we still [have] been behaving as though it is business as usual. I am of the view, as a minister that, we have to make some changes [in] the direction we are going. It’s no sense burying our heads in the sand, and [the] decisions are not tough decisions as far as I am concerned, if we have been given all the facts, all the figures, all the options, you sit down and you examine what is the best ones to pursue and you pursue them,” the commerce minister asserted.
“I expect that going forward, we would have to make some structural changes. The challenge is, and the efficiencies in this economy are structural in nature and therefore you can’t put a plaster on it and think it would go away. They have to be dealt with a very frontal manner,” he declared.
“And there are issues, let’s say involving reducing the size of the public service, and this is not something that we can run away from. I have always said, personally, that I felt that the public service in Barbados has been too large and too unwieldy for way too long,” the Minister of Industry submitted.
“I personally, and this is me Donville Inniss as an individual, would like to see a more private sector-led economy. I think the Government needs to pull out of certain areas, provide a regulatory environment, provide necessary goods and services like education and health care and provide the best environment for the private sector to thrive,” he added.
“Therefore,” Inniss reasoned, “I expect that the public service in terms of size and scope in Barbados will have to be reduced. It should have been done, maybe ten years ago. It was actually done . . . reduced in size when [Sir Lloyd] Erskine Sandiford was Prime Minister back in the early 1990s, and then successive Governments came and added more and increased the numbers.”
He is of the opinion that the public sector could be gradually cut by also expanding the private sector.
“And we can have a long debate at the national level on what it takes to expand it, private sector-wise, they would have to involve giving more attention to entrepreneurship and innovation in Barbados to get more Barbadians involved in generating their own income and employment; it also has to mean that we have to get our private sector to behave more like a private sector should, and wean themselves off Government and be able to stand on their own.”
Inniss feels the private sector should go out into the region and farther afield to find new markets and partners for their goods and services.