Letter of the Day | Don't insult our intelligence, Mr Shaw
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Finance Minister Audley Shaw is at his usual bellicose self in the negotiations with public-sector workers. One had hoped that at this juncture in our country's history, not only would drawn-out negotiations be a thing of the past, but that they would be conducted with respect from both sides and the workers would not be insulted by what is offered to them.
Speaking in Parliament last week, Mr Shaw gave the impression that the workers are unreasonable. He put forward some percentage increases over four years but he forgot to state what inflation would be then and how much the worker, whose ambition is to own a house or car, will need to have then. Of course, he could not, because like so many other things, he does not know. When did public-sector workers start receiving performance pay? The finance minister needs a dose of reality.
OPTIONS FOR TAX HIKE
We will continue to have anaemic growth and a stagnant society if we do not invest in education, health and security. Many studies support this view. We are not attracting bright people in these professions because they will not be able to enjoy a reasonable standard of living, so many prefer to take jobs that satisfy their financial needs and not where their passion lies.
Mr Shaw claims that if he is to pay the teachers and others more than what they have been offered, he would have to raise taxes. He is being disingenuous. His Government has an excellent track record of finding money when it wants, unless this skill only manifests itself when an election is called. If so, let me offer some suggestions in place of having to raise taxes:
- Get rid of the numerous consultants and advisers to ministries and ineffective board members whose jobs arise from political loyalty but who earn salaries and perks that public-sector workers can only dream about.
- Reduce expenditure on extravagant office space for ministries and support agencies. Start with the plaza on Constant Spring Road that houses the Ministry of Justice.
- Collect the billions of GCT and other taxes that businesses refuse to pay.
- Eliminate non-essential overseas travel for ministers and government executives who attend every conference and meeting with little to show for doing so.
- Stop the talk about cutting waste in public expenditure and act on suggestions put forward by well-thinking patriotic Jamaicans.
Everyone agrees that government cannot afford to pay teachers, health pro-fessionals and the police what they are worth, but I urge the minister of finance not to insult our public servants by offering them salary increase that is equivalent to a minuscule portion of the telephone bill of his and some of his colleagues.