AFC will not seek cuts from the ordinary workers – Ramjattan
- Super salaries being exclusively targeted
Government Ministers and their parliamentarians along with scores of contract workers took to the streets in uproar after the Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, in parliament recently outlined some $3B (US$15M) to be placed on the chopping block when he made his presentation in Budget Debates.
The protest was held at various sections of the streets around Public Buildings. Most of the protestors were however in the vicinity of Brickdam and Avenue of the Republic.
“It is not the objective of the AFC or Ramjattan or anyone of the parliamentarians to do something that we feel will oppress workers more. And the propaganda machinery that is NCN, Chronicle and GINA, heavily scandalizing what we are doing,” Ramjattan emphatically said yesterday at a press conference held at the Sidewalk Café.
Ramjattan had recommended that cuts be made for allocations to the Ministries of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Housing and Water, and Culture, Youth and Sport. However, according to Ramjattan, 24 hours notice had to be given to the government for the proposed cuts in the budget, and government used the occasion to twist the AFC’s intentions, he said.
He explained that one of the major cuts pertained to contract employees that earn super salaries. Adding that he communicated with the Minister of Finance Dr Ashni Singh the need for information on the top 25 contractual workers in the government Ministries, Ramjattan said “that the information I had wanted for purposes of being more clinical in the scissors exercise…We didn’t cut the entire budget for contract employees. We made certain cuts to those that we are being informed by insider information in these Ministries as to who are getting top jobs, and who are getting special salaries and allowances.”
He further said that the AFC will not seek cuts from the ordinary workers but the favorites of the Government who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“All we are asking is that the relevant Ministers of the various Ministries, is who are the top earners, and once they give proper explanations we can then make the cut or if the explanations are perfectly in order we are going to approve,” Ramjattan explained.
Adding that politics is being played with a financial matter, Ramjattan said the AFC wants to see old age pension go up to $10,000, and social assistance to $7,500. He said the two items when calculated will be $750M.
“We want to see the rate of VAT reduced immediately by two percent in 2012 and another two percent in 2013. The cost for the reduction of VAT by two percent will be $4.2 billion and this can be less costly if Government can enforce tax collection,” Ramjattan noted.
“We want to see the rate of personal income tax reduced from 33.3 per cent to 30 per cent in 2012, and a further 3.3 per cent next year bringing it down to 25 per cent in 2014. We want the suspension of the decision to increase electricity tariff since this cost the government $2.9 billion.
“We also want the establishment of a procurement commission not later than May 31 of which will cost $100M annually which will save billions in overpayments to contractors.”
Underscoring that the AFC total cuts came up to $3.8 billion, Ramjattan noted that other than the cuts this sum can be found in static accounts in the various bank accounts. He pointed too to the GT&T shares which were recently sold for US$30M and will be placed into NICIL’s account. This money he said is government’s property and would help with the cuts but government refuses to accept.
He said that the accounts should be placed in the Consolidated Funds along with the lottery monies, NICIL, Wildlife, Forestry, GNCB debt collection unit along with other monies which can facilitate necessary cuts in the budget, “we are cutting the fat from contract employees.”
Adding that the Government is constantly bailing out GPL with billions of dollars, Ramjattan said the Chief Executive Officer receives US$12,000 along with $500,000 in allowances a month for a company that creates 40 per cent losses and constant power outages.
Cabinet Ministers who collectively protested the move by AFC had their supporters and contract employees waving placards that read; “Heartless AFC leave workers alone,” “AFC no humanity,” “Vote for jobs not unemployment,” “save our jobs.”
Public Service Minister, Dr. Jennifer Westford noted that there are more than 6,000 contract workers who earn between $38,000 and $400,000. “These people over the years have been contending that contracted workers are getting multi-million dollars. It’s not so.
“Contracted workers are public servants who opted to be contracted workers. If this is what they are doing now imagine if they get into government.”
Minister of Housing Irfaan Alli said that 1,000 prospective house lot earners will be facing the squeeze if the AFC gets its way to slash $1B from the Ministry of Housing and Water. “They want to take away jobs and erode the economy.”
Minister of Transport Robeson Benn said the AFC’s action will prevent young people, who are contract employees from working, and as such the proposals seek to stymie development and prosperity.
“We see provocateurs dressed in green in the midst of this demonstration trying to provoke an incident, and we want to return to peaceful, normal productive work…Those who want to stop progress and development will fall on their own swords.”
Attorney General Anil Nandlall said that the opposition is trying to cut the budget especially as it relates to the contract workers, and as such if this is done dozens of employees will be sent home.
Minister of Education Priya Manickchand said that the AFC’s position is immoral and the AFC in a wild move is really threatening the country and moving it toward an ungovernable position.
Minister of Health Bheri Ramsarran said that the AFC has bitter people who are unaware of the works of government and who are trying to make cuts that are anti-worker.
“The argument is that they are contract workers. The benefits are that the persons will be getting a gratuity and those employed in the regular service will be waiting on a ‘nest egg.’ They are using this thing as if it is not normal.”