Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Government is expected to slash the public-sector establishment by some 3,000 posts by next month as part of its debt-containment strategy.
Addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's North Street, central Kingston, offices, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips was, however, quick to point out that this move would not translate into that many civil servants being sent home as the cuts would cover vacant positions that would be removed from the system entirely.
"We expect that 3,000 positions will be removed from the establishment and that should be taken through the Parliament in September," Phillips said.
"We will do an additional component by the end of the year relating to the overall public sector. We have not made any cuts from the main civil service," the finance minister asserted.
Referring to the global economic crisis as well as Jamaica's history, Phillips argued that making cuts then jacking up the establishment at a later date for political and other considerations was an unacceptable and imprudent option.
"We have been through a lot of this before, as a country, thereby reducing the debt and running it up again," he said.
Phillips said the decision to cut the posts was not an option but a necessity as a part of the Government's debt-containment policy.
"There has to be the fundamental trade-off between wage restraint and/or job cuts," he said.
"We are in a dialogue with the trade unions about wage restraints for 2012," Phillips added. "The vast majority (of public sector represented trade unions) have accepted it and we continue the dialogue in that, but there is a basic need to reduce the cost of operation ... and the logic is either wage restraint or job cuts."
Phillips suggested that part of the desire of the people of Jamaica, as well as the international and domestic communities is the sustainability of the measures that are going to be undertaken.
"How are we going to be able to sustain this over the long term, so that the generation that will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Independence will not have to confront the same set of problems," Phillips asserted. "What we are seeking to do, even as we make these adjustments, is to put in place structures as best as we can that will limit the possibility of us getting on this particular roller coaster again."