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Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding used the medium of his monthly radio talk show, ‘Jamaica House Live’, Wednesday night (August 26), to make an impassioned plea for public sector workers and their unions to show more empathy and understanding for Jamaica’s current economic plight.
“I make an appeal to the unions that represent Public Sector workers, I make an appeal to Public Sector workers, themselves,” Mr. Golding pleaded.
“Nobody can accuse this Government of being stingy when it comes to (public sector) salaries. When we came to office, the Public Sector wage bill was at $84 billion, we increased that this year. We have increased it, in two years, from $84 billion to $120 billion and, despite the crisis we now face, we intend to hold that. But, we can’t go further to put on the 7% (pay increase due April, 2009). We just don’t have the money,” the Prime Minister explained.
He also cautioned that, in order to make the additional payments being requested, the Government would have to ask the Bank of Jamaica to print more money, which would spell disaster for the economy.
“Therefore, I make an appeal to the unions, to the Public Sector workers, to take into account the difficulties the country is experiencing, to take into account the fact that we can’t cut any more than we are cutting, we can’t put on any more taxes, the poor can’t take any more right now and, therefore, we ask everybody to hold strain,” he said.
This was Mr. Golding’s clarion call, as he reminded listeners that his Government has led the way by example, with a 15% pay cut in his own salary and a 10% cut for his Cabinet Ministers’ and party’s MPs’.
Mr. Golding made a similar argument Wednesday morning, at his weekly post cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House. He told the press that the global economic crisis has left the Government no choice, but to review the agreements with civil servants and their unions for wage increases.
Through the “live” radio engagement with Jamaicans at home and abroad Wednesday night, the Prime Minister contextualised the wage freeze and the 20% budget cuts he has called for across the Government spectrum, by dissecting the national purse in real terms.
He reminded listeners that of the $209 billion remaining in the Government’s coffers, after debt servicing, $125 billion is committed to the existing wage bill, leaving a meagre $84 billion to run the country. He said that this has to be seen in the context of the closure of three of the four Alumina plants; the reduction in remittances; and the fact that exports are still under stress and purchasing power remains weak.
The Prime Minister also alluded to suggestions that the world might be seeing the back end of the recession. He cautioned that it is still too early to say, definitely, if that is the case. However, he suggested that Jamaicans continue to hope that the process moves swiftly, and bring relief to the country.

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