From the Office of the Shadow Minister of Finance
Peter Turnquest, member of parliament for East Grand Bahama
October 20, 2013
For Immediate release (101)
FNM Concerned about Mass Firings at Ministry of Finance
Given the choice between high-priced foreign consultants and keeping Bahamians employed, the FNM would keep Bahamians working.
The FNM has received reports that the Business License Unit within the Ministry of Finance terminated more than twenty employees last Friday. These latest terminations by the government are another in a long list of firing of persons employed within the public sector in varying capacities since the PLP returned to office in May 2012. The FNM is informed that this mass firing is of persons who were on contract but whose contracts have come to an end.
This move would not be an issue for the FNM except for the fact that the functions performed by the previously contracted person are still very much important…and in some cases essential…to the ongoing efficient operations of units within the Ministry. Additionally, information reaching us suggests that some select persons have been given a commitment that they will be reengaged. Serious questions arise as to the government’s true motives.
Months ago while in Trinidad at an international meeting, Minister of State for Finance, Michael Halkitis, gave a speech suggesting that the size of government needed to be reduced. On returning to The Bahamas he never gave a satisfactory answer to the question as to whether there was in fact an undisclosed plan to reduce the size of government without any public declaration to that effect.
Given the report of firings from the Business License Unit and Prime Minister Christie’s recent statements that “I must have something in mind by the way in which I have spoken” about Bahamasair, the national airline, the Opposition, Bahamasair employees and members of the public service at large are left to wonder if there is a secret workforce reduction plan and who is next?
At a time when private sector organizations have been discretely laying off workers due to lacklustre economic activity, Government mass firings of people who work in entry-level to mid-level jobs is a major cause of concern. Quite frankly, the FNM’s position is that the prudent step for the government would be to hold the line on public employment levels for a while longer, especially if—as the present case suggests—there is meaningful work for the people to do. It further goes without saying that any mass firing by this administration is immediately met with a considerable amount of suspicion because of the PLP’s record of targeting suspected FNM supporters who hold jobs.
At the same time that the Christie Government is terminating entry and junior level workers who we expect need their incomes, there are press reports that the government is completing talks with yet another set of foreign consultants to advise them on national health insurance implementation. Reports are that the government is seeking to engage both a healthcare company and an accounting firm to advise them about how to implement national health insurance.
Such a move would NOT be money well spent. Instead of keeping average Bahamians employed, the government seems prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, to study how they can impose YET ANOTHER tax on the public. The new health charge would be IN ADDITION to passed-along new bank fees, customs levies and VAT. Given the considerable level of new and impending taxes already announced, the new health charge seems highly unlikely to fly. This begs the question of whether the administration should spend money on the high-priced consultants at this time? The FNM would keep people employed.