By Arthur Williams, Guest Columnist
The August 23, 2012 issue of The Gleaner carried an article captioned '3,000 public-sector posts to go in Sept'.
The article quoted the minister of finance as saying that "the decision to cut the posts was not an option but a necessity as part of Government's debt-containment policy". Thereafter, I heard several discussions on radio programmes seeking to determine the effect of the removal of these 3,000 posts from the establishment, and how this will be regarded by the IMF.
Last week Wednesday, the Cabinet secretary, appearing before the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament, was questioned about the removal of these 3,000 posts and is said to have made it clear that the removal of the posts would not result in any savings in the current Budget.
The fact is that from time to time posts are removed from (or added to) the Civil Service Establishment by order of the minister with responsibility for the public service. This latest order in respect of the removal of actually 3,100 posts represents the 'tidying up of the Establishment' by the formal removal of posts, many of which have, in fact, been long removed from the Establishment.
Even a cursory look at the Civil Service Establishment (General) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order, 2012 will reveal the following:
1 Some 1,266 of the posts were removed from the Establishment since 1999. These are posts which were part of the Ministry of Health that were transferred to the new regional health authorities with effect from January 1, 1999.
2 Eight hundred and seventy-nine of the posts were removed from the Establishment since April 2008. These are posts which were part of the Ministry of Finance and were posts in the Inland Revenue Department.
3 Seventy-two of the posts were removed from the Establishment since 2010. These are posts which were part of the Ministry of Agriculture and were posts in the Forestry Department. These posts were transferred to the newly created executive agency which replaced the Forestry Department.
All of these posts are still being paid for by the Government of Jamaica and form part of the public-sector wage bill.
4 Four hundred and twenty-seven of these posts were removed when the posts were abolished consequent on the scaling down and rationalisation of post offices across the country. These posts have been vacant for an extended period, some for up to 12 years.
These posts mentioned above total 2,644 (1,266+879+72+427) out of the 3,100 posts. The remaining 456 posts are largely posts falling under various ministries and departments which have not been filled for more than one year and are now being formally removed from the Establishment.
It is difficult to see how this 'tidying up' order has anything to do with the Government's debt-containment strategy. It also has little, if any, effect on the Government's wage bill, since the vast majority of the posts are still being paid by the Government, though not on the Civil Service Establishment. Further, of the remaining 456 posts the majority have been vacant for more than one year and would not have been costed in the Government's wage bill for the current financial year.
Arthur Williams is an opposition senator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.