POND ISLAND–Temporary salary cuts for Members of Parliament and Ministers form part of a package of measures drafted by Finance Minister Mike Ferrier to start chipping away at the country’s projected NAf. 197 million deficit post-Hurricane Irma.
Both salaries are regulated by law and the cuts would need Parliament to make the amendments to the related laws.
Outlining some of the yet-to-be-approved measures to the press on Wednesday, Ferrier was quick to point out Government could only suggest to MPs to cut their salaries. The ball is completely in Parliament’s court to actually make the changes happen.
“They are our bosses basically, so there we need their approval. We have asked them to take a look at it and that they come back and tell us what they think,” Ferrier said.
Annual personnel cost stands at some NAf. 199.8 million, almost 40 per cent of Government total expenses. Opening Government’s doors every month costs some NAf. 40 million, said Ferrier.
“We need to find ways and means of reducing that because there are two myths: one myth is Government cannot go broke and secondly, Government can print more money. That’s a myth.”
In spite of that, cutting civil servants’ salaries is “not the first thing on the list” of measures, Ferrier assured civil servants. With plans for a temporary reduction of the Ministers’ salaries, he said, “We touched ourselves first.”
The cost-cutting measures also cover adjusting the “bridge allowance” for ex-ministers and eliminating it for ex-MPs. Both sets of political office-holders are entitled to up to two years of salary on a sliding scale on demitting office.
It is very clear, based on the constant government shifts, the country “cannot afford the bridge allowance for all the Ministers,” Ferrier said. However, the allowance is set by law and change in the legislation by Parliament is required.
Adjusting travel and accommodation rules and policy for Ministers and Parliamentarians forms part of the list.
Comparing civil servants to private sector workers, Ferrier said the latter took a hit by pay cuts almost immediately after Hurricane Irma struck the island.
“Government workers never missed a beat. Every Government worker got paid every month like clockwork. Some of these cost-reducing measures will affect Government workers, but it doesn’t affect their pay. They still get their pay every month,” he said.
Freezing of bonuses and gratifications for civil servants, reducing mobile phone packages or moving to pre-paid plans, reducing office rents from third parties, limiting the waste of electricity and office supplies and reducing transportation expenses via carpooling are on the table.
All the adjustments and cuts may not make a huge change in Government’s deficit, but will help in the long run. “But, it’s a start. … If we deal with all these little items and save a dollar here and save a dollar there we make a difference ultimately,” Ferrier said.
All Government employees are called on to bring cost-cutting suggestions to the Ministers. “Help us think. Be part of the solution. Unions, I say the same thing. … Come with a positive outlook,” he said.