On the eve of tomorrow’s general election, the leaders of the two main political parties in Antigua and Barbuda are vowing not to go the route of Barbados with public sector layoffs.
Both Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of the United Progressive Party and Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party leader Gaston Browne insist that sending home thousands of public servants would not be in the best interest of the country.
“It will be challenging to begin with, but as I said we are seeing a rebound in the economy of Antigua and Barbuda; the prospects are looking good. Before 2014 comes to an end, we will see some significant improvements in our economic fortunes . . . ,” Spencer told Barbados TODAY, noting that arguments had been made for his administration to send home as many as 4,000 public servants.
However, he said his government took a deliberate decision to maintain the workforce.
“We recognized that the private sector did not have the absorptive capacity to address that issue and we didn’t want to compound the injury that was taking place. So we said whatever we do, we have to hold the line on that. After all, we always talk about the party being a party that believes in people first, that the party is rooted in the ordinary men and women of this country; so to the extent that is so, we want to hold the line on that.”
Meanwhile, Browne, who is contesting the poll as ABLP leader for the first time, said layoffs would have a devastating impact on the economic and social fabric of the two-island state.
“Retrenchment brings with it other problems which invariably make [it] counterproductive. If you lay off a man today, then that person can’t find work and feed his family and becomes susceptible to a life of crime. Also, when you put several thousand people out of work, you’re also reducing aggregate demand,” he said.
“So for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party, retrenchment is not an option. What we propose to do is to exercise some discipline in our hirings to keep the public sector stable in terms of the aggregate number of employees while growing revenue. So over time, we’ll be able to trade out of our difficulties and we’ll see a reduction in the total emoluments and as a percentage of total revenue so we’re looking at a revenue growth strategy.”