Nov 30, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Head of State, President Ali, recently sought to defend the seven percent across the board increase that was announced by his Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh.
In his defence of what was criticised widely as meagre and lowly, President Ali sought to contextualise the increase in the context of the eroded spending power of the citizenry by the coalition government.To this end, former Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, in response has since sought to discredit President Ali’s assertion and in fact posits that the increases that were handed out to public servants in just two and a half years during its time in office was nominally more substantial than forced payouts by the PPP administration.
Accusing the incumbent administration of repeated maltreatment meted out to public servants during its 23 years in office prior to 2015, the former Finance Minister drew reference to “The Armstrong Arbitration Award.”
That tribunal’s ruling had mandated government to provide substantial increases in wages and salaries to public servants for the years 1999 and 2000 at 31 percent and 66 percent respectively.
He reminded that despite of this substantial increase that was mandated by that tribunal ruling, by 2006 the minimum wage for public servants was just over $26,000 and by 2015 it had moved to about $29,000, an increase of about $3,000 during that time.
According to Jordan, when the coalition took office in 2015, within two years—2017—had managed to increase the minimum wage by 50 percent—increased from an already increased minimum wage.
As such, it meant that the increased provided by the coalition administration had been nominally more substantial in terms of value.
This, he said, obtained even as the Coalition had reportedly inherited an “economy that was built on sand fuming.”
According to Jordan, his administration had in fact set out on a wages policy that sought over time to bring it as close as possible to a livable wage and remove gaps. He used as example, the practice that was being employed by the now incumbent administration that would have seen persons being paid different pay scales for the same job.
To this end, Jordan said his administration set about bringing all public servants onto an established system and improving tax thresholds at marginal rates.
He was adamant, “all this was done without a drop of oil to assist us” and called the performance testimony to the “superiority of our approach.”
According to Jordan, the seven percent increase by the administration after a two-year hiatus merely represents the manner with which the PPP administration has treated with a public service over the years that is largely perceived to be non-PPP supporters.
Jordan was adamant that it appears the PPP appears interested in developing a public service that they can control and again drew reference to the fracturing of the established public service through the use of contracts.
President Ali on Friday last, in an ‘election campaign style’ presentation lasting some 37 minutes, used up more than half of that time lambasting what he called ‘politicised’ unions and the ousted A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) as being responsible for the quantum of the increase.
He sought to qualify his position saying, “When the APNU+AFC came to government, they inherited a buoyant economy; they didn’t inherit a situation which we inherited – a COVID-19 situation, the economy in shambles.”
According to the President, the increase provided by his government, as such, has to be seen in the context of an economy decimated by the then government and a global pandemic, in addition to the global economic environment.
The President, however, was quick to claim that his administration has done more for the people of the country, in terms of making available to them more disposable income to the tune of billions of dollars above any increase the APNU+AFC would have paid out.
He cited as examples, the one-off cash grants and COVID-19 relief packages, in addition to other measures implemented by his administration since taking office.
Lashing out at trade unions specifically that would have condemned the increase as meagre, President Ali said, “…I am seeing a lot of so-called trade union leaders, who are more political operatives; I would consider them political operatives. If you look at their attitude and behaviour and their level of activism now, compared to when the APNU+AFC was in government, you would see that they are driven by an agenda, and [in] this country sometimes, we do not want to call a spade, a spade.”
To this end, he said, “when you have persons driven by an agenda, they try to distort the facts, they try to distort the truth, and they try to manipulate information… I say to all of those in the public service, and all of the workers in this country, do not be distracted.”
Speaking to an international context, President Ali, in fact, praised his administration’s ability to outshine others globally, and pointed to countries like the UK, which has a wages freeze in place.
Additionally, he pointed to the fact that several countries across the world, rather than focusing on salary increases and other benefits for their citizenry, are in fact prioritising other areas, such as protecting jobs.
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