By Latrishka Thomas
Public sector workers can rest assured that they will be receiving their salaries at the end of this month, as the government says that wages will be paid at any cost.
“Protecting lives and preserving livelihoods is the balance we are seeking to create. Therefore, preserving public sector jobs is an imperative,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said when asked if the workers’ remuneration for this month would be forthcoming.
Browne added that although the government’s preference is to utilise grants, salaries may be paid using borrowed monies.
In fact, Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel “Max” Hurst, told Observer that although borrowing is not ideal, it may be the sole option at the moment.
“Revenues have fallen precipitously and the only way to make up for the revenue shortfall in order to meet salaries and wages — which is somewhere in the region of about $32 million each month — is to borrow. But that’s unsustainable and that’s part of the reason why we are doing our very best to get this economy back on track,” Hurst stated.
Since the 24-hour lockdown went into effect early in April, many businesses have halted their operations and consequently, tax contributions have been severely affected.
Comptroller of Customs, Raju Boddu, shared that there has been a 40 percent decline in customs revenue for the month of April.
Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department, Ralph Warner, also reported a decline in collections. He projected a revenue collapse to the tune of around $27 million this month.
And just this week the Cabinet lamented that “no significant external assistance will be forthcoming since many of the developed countries are facing their own crises from the Covid-19 pandemic, and are focused upon their own citizens’ needs”.
It revealed that, “the World Bank and the IMF have not responded in a concrete way, though approaches have been made”.
Notwithstanding that, the Cabinet said that the government will have to borrow to meet expenses such as salaries, wages and emoluments, “however, there is also a limit to borrowing given the need of the Treasury to meet a multiplicity of expenses, now and after the crisis has passed”.