Opposition suggestions of a reduction of the public service in the form of firing of public servants was mollified by Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith who announced yet again that Government has given no directive for anyone to be sent home.
The suggestion that public servants would be fired was made in the House of Assembly last week and also during a press conference on 28 March when reporters asked the Premier if this was true based on the current budget projections.
In response Hon. Smith explained that the situation prior to making provision for the loan guarantee was grim, but now that the Recovery legislation was passed he said that he does not foresee things getting to a point as bad as layoffs: “If we do not get the loans that we require over a period of time then we will not be able to continue the recovery and the development of the BVI. If there is no guarantee and no loans then the issue would have to be looking at our economy and see what we need to do because certainly if we are going to be $50 million short for this year then we would have to look and see what we can afford to do without that $50 million,” the Premier explained.
Meanwhile, Hon. Smith did not confirm or deny rumors suggesting that the BVI Ports Authority staffers were operating on half salary. He only noted that Government is not planning to fire employees. The Premier also rubbished suggestions that the interest in privatizing certain areas of government was aimed at reducing the size of the public service.
In fact, the Premier said that privatization plans have more to do with promoting public sector efficiency and less to do with job cuts. “What happens is that all governments must look at how they provide services in the country. It is a common saying that the private industry is more efficient in providing services and so there is an appetite in some places to privatise some services. For example, we have created several statutory bodies like the BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC), Financial Services Commission and they run like private institutions and they run very efficient.”
He noted that specific areas are being looked at for privatization alternative plans and noted that the process will take the form of a “private-public partnership” aimed at producing a more efficient way to provide government services without burdening the public purse.
“We all agree that it is ok also to look at the position where we think it is important. For example, we had discussions on a few occasions, not formal discussions, about the possibility of privatizing the Fisheries maybe because we feel with our Fisheries Corporation, where all the fishermen are involved, might make for more efficiency,” Hon. Smith added.