Former Minister: Stimulus – “Catastrophic Disaster”

From left: Lenard Montoute, Guy Joseph and Allen Chastanet.

From left: Lenard Montoute, Guy Joseph and Allen Chastanet.

As negotiations between public servants and the government over wage increases appeared to be going nowhere the Opposition United Workers Party called on the Kenny Anthony government to lead by example. The latest word is that public servants and government are still not in agreement on the conditions associated with accepting a four percent increase. Former ministers of government, Lenard Montoute, Guy Joseph and Allen Chastanet, met with the press last Thursday to discuss the ongoing wage negotiations and to state that the government needs to institute austerity measures of its own in order to gain the trust of civil servants. The panel of former ministers also addressed the issue of consultancies in government. Prime Minister Kenny Anthony had in a speech recently accused to the opposition of having hired over 140 consultants on contract during their tenure in office. This was after the Labour Party government had itself been criticized for its own appointments. “The United Workers Party calls on the government to highlight the 141 contracts that were issued. Tell us the titles of those contracts and tell us the names of the people that received those contracts,” said former minister for tourism Allen Chastanet. “The insinuation by the Labour Party is that somehow the United Workers Party used contracts to employ people associated to our party. Let us not forget that after hurricane Tomas there was aid money coming in and there were special programs that had to be designed and consultants were hired for this. People were hired in the prime minister’s office under the economic recovery act.” For his part Chastanet said with regards to the wage negotiations what is needed is leadership. “The unions have presented an alternative to a price increase and it’s a matter of sitting down in good faith,” said Chastanet. “Can we clearly say to ourselves that the government has acted in urgency with this situation? Children are missing school, people are missing flights because airports are being closed and we are not seeing an end. You have to sit down and try to resolve this . . . Dr Kenny Anthony attempted in his speech to address some issues but he did not. He spent over 50 percent of his time blaming the United Workers Party, instead of dealing with the actions of his government. They have been in power for over a year and a half. Why is it all of these people are being hired in the overseas offices? Why all these consultants? . . . Nobody is saying that it is not important but civil servants want to know, what is the government doing in terms of austerity? If you are asking people to defer income to themselves, then what is your economic plan?” Chastanet went on: “The three-point economic plan that Dr Anthony has mentioned in the past is not working. The stimulus has been a catastrophic failure! The only jobs we are getting are jobs that have been funded by taxpayers. So when you talk about fiscal consolidation where is it really taking place? As quickly as you save money in one area you turn around and spend millions in NICE, STEP and SMILE.” For his part former minister for the public service Lenard Montoute said the current situation can be summed up with “the things that you do in your past coming back to haunt you.” Montoute was referring to Kenny Anthony’s stance in opposition on public servants getting a 7.5 percent payment from the then Stephenson King administration. “I recall when negotiations were taking place Dr Anthony was on the streets with public servants and asking the government to pay the people their money. I remember indicating then that this move was irresponsible of the then opposition leader and it would come back to haunt him and it has come to pass,” said Montoute. “If you are aware that we are going through an economic crisis the natural inclination should be to cut. Right now, especially since the government has not been able to grow the economy, our approach should be one where we try to do more with less,” he added. Montoute was very critical of taxpayers money spent on programs like STEP. But what would a United Workers Party government do differently? “The government needs to show respect to the public servants, show leadership and lead by example,” said Montoute. “The government should not call on the public to makes sacrifices when they themselves are engaging in largesse. The kind of affluence we see taking place does not suggest to the public servants that there is a crisis. If the government does that then they would have the moral authority to ask people to make such sacrifices. As a government we would not have intervened and addressed the public servants in a public forum as he did and insult the public servants as he did. That is the kind of arrogance and high-handedness that will naturally affect negatively the process of negotiations.” USE PIC

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