Lovell says gov’t is under pressure to hire supporters

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Former finance minister and Political Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell has cautioned the current administration against the practice of adding workers to the public sector because of pressure from supporters.
During an appearance on Sunday’s Big Issues, Lovell said that a lack of expansion in the private sector has led to the government over compensating in the number of residents it employs.
“The government will pick up the slack, other than that you will find they have a mutiny on their hands. Their supporters are going to be arguing (you know) I was with this government, I was with the party and my daughter is still not working and maybe I’m not even working … so there’s an enormous amount of pressure on the political directorate to pick up the slack.”
Last week, an economist reported that the steady increase in Antigua & Barbuda’s wage bill and the increase in the number of non-established workers has caused an over saturation in the public sector.
“It’s really a question of getting the economy right, allowing the private sector to grow through the strategies, legislative and otherwise,” Lovell said.
He said just as it is a problem in other small island states, the government should look to the private sector to increase its capacity to absorb school leavers.
“The economy has to be expanding so that the private sector can take the persons that are looking for work.”
In the country’s 2017 budget estimates, 58 employees were added to the government’s wage bill by the Establishment Division while 509 were added to the non-established work force.
In comparison, the estimate for wages and salaries jumped from about $319 million to $357 million.
Another panellist, founding member of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), Anthony Stuart said the government’s announcement that it would increase public sector wages next year is well intentioned because the workers deserve better pay.
But he added that the government will likely suffer from adding too many workers to the bloated payroll.
 “The wage bill as it stands can only do one thing to this country, it will cause cost of living to increase because the Gaston Browne administration has already started to increase taxes in order to meet the payment of salaries and wages,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stuart said that the government should discontinue the practice which has left it dependent on the “dangerous selling of passports”.

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