Thu | Dec 14, 2017

EPOC co-chairman urges wage restraint

Published:Sunday | November 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
Keith Duncan, co-chair of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee

Co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Keith Duncan is calling for restraint and understanding on all sides in the present round of public-sector wage negotiations.

According to Duncan, there needs to be greater ownership of the stated target of achieving a nine per cent wage-to-GDP ratio by financial year 2018-2019.

He argued that the number of times this target has been shifted has imposed an imperative on all those sitting at the negotiating table that it must be met this time.

"This is truly going to be a challenging one for Jamaica, for the public-sector workers, for the Government and the unions, but we have a commitment as a country and we keep moving this target. We really have to get our hands wrapped around this and see if we can achieve this fiscal rule which we have signed off on as a country," Duncan said as he fielded questions at a recent EPOC media briefing.

Duncan charged that meeting the wage-to-GDP ratio target requires greater engagement, collaboration and broad ownership by all stakeholders as Jamaica is bound by a solemn undertaking.

 

National interest

 

The EPOC co-chairman added that the public sector needs to have an appreciation for where we are as a country, the broad economic programme we are now under, and the attached targets.

"Government, unions, private sector, workers, all must get on board as this is in the national interest, because we have declared this to all our partners that we will be hitting this target of nine per cent wages to GDP in the financial year 2018-2019," Duncan said days after it was reported the doctors, nurses and teachers have rejected the Government's wage offer put on the table.

He noted that EPOC is aware that if GDP were higher, then there would be greater capacity to pay more wages, and called on stakeholders with responsibility for delivering growth to do so with a sense of urgency.

"We would like to push the Government and the Economic Growth Council, and all those concerned with pushing economic growth forward, to garner those investment that can really get the growth moving from the rate we have seen in recent years, so that we can get GDP to higher levels so that we can afford to actually compensate our workers at competitive levels," said Duncan.

 

Opportunities for efficiencies

 

According to Duncan, there are significant opportunities for efficiencies in the public sector, and that it is a point that all Jamaica must accept.

He told the briefing that the Government and public-sector workers need to examine the opportunities available.

"There are opportunities for mergers, outsourcing of functions and shared services. These opportunities can bring about more cost-effective delivery of service to the public," Duncan said, indicating that he expects good sense to prevail on the part of the parties to negotiations.

Meanwhile, in his report on EPOC's examination of Jamaica's economic performance, Duncan said that all macroeconomic targets have been met or exceeded. He said with this in mind, EPOC is of the view that the country is on track to achieve all stated objectives.

Duncan described Jamaica as one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world.

While labelling Government's stated goal of five per cent growth in four years as 'aspirational', the EPOC co-chairman said the target is achievable if there is urgency in going after the investments necessary to promote growth and development.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com