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Public servants are to receive a 5 percent across the board increase on their salaries, Prime Minister Gaston Browne disclosed yesterday during the presentation of the 2018 National Budget.
The E.C. $ 1.2 billion budget outlined a raft of measures aimed at public servants, even as negotiations continue between the government and the workers’ representatives.
 Browne said the number of proposals that have to be considered means that they will take some time to arrive at individual agreements, which could take as long as a year.
“Given that the negotiation process between the unions and the Government’s team will take some time, the government has decided to pay an interim increase of five percent of basic salary for public servants.
“This is not intended to prejudice the negotiations, nor is it an indication of the government’s final offer as it relates to a wage increase,” Browne stated.
The increase will be retroactive to January 1, 2018, and according to Browne, will be factored into whatever rates are agreed upon with the unions and included as part of the final percentage.
According to Browne, the measures were intended to demonstrate his government’s “good faith.”
“There will be a housing grant of $10,000 for public servants to assist with the down payment and purchase price of a home from National Housing and Urban Renewal Company.
“Vehicle concessions will be given once every five years beginning from 28th February and public servants will receive 50 to 100 percent waiver of import duty on new and used vehicles,” Browne announced to applause.
There are also plans to give priority access to teachers, nurses, and members of the defence force, police, and Office of National Drug Control Policy, to homes provided through National Housing.
“For those who do not wish to purchase a home from National Housing, a special window will be established through the Construct Antigua Barbuda Initiative that will allow fast-track access to the incentives offered through this programme.
“Additionally, public servants will be eligible to receive concessions on the importation of household furnishings and major appliances to furnish their new homes.”
The PM said the finance ministry has been tasked with coming up with a simple procedure for straightforward access to these incentives.
Browne also gave a commitment to clear the back pay owed to public servants for more than a decade.
“The government proposes to settle the outstanding back pay by offering every public servant who was employed with the government on December 31, 2002 one month of his or her basic salary, free of all deductions.
The PM said if the proposal is accepted, the government would begin the process of clearing the arrears immediately. Browne, a banker by profession, acknowledged that there was an overall budget deficit – meaning the country is spending more than it is earning – but according to him, the government understands that it “must go the extra mile to improve the living standards of public servants.”  
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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