Jamaica PM freezes public sector wages, takes pay cut

KINGSTON, Jamaica:

In a national broadcast on Sunday, Golding said the public sector wage freeze would be “at the levels which obtained on March 31″, and urged fellow parliamentarians to accept a 10 per cent cut in pay.

Golding said the alternative to the wage freeze would have been “to lay off thousands of workers at a time when alternative employment is hard to find” and that his cut in salary showed that he was prepared to lead by example.

“Last year, I announced that parliamentary salaries would be tied to those of public sector workers. In other words, parliamentarians can no longer give themselves salary increases higher than that granted to public sector workers.

“This year, not only am I foregoing the seven per cent increase that would have been due on April 1, but I will be taking a 15 per cent cut in my salary and I ask all members of parliament to join in this symbolically important example by taking a 10 per cent cut in theirs,” Golding said.

The Prime Minister said the new measures were necessary as his administration sought to deal with increased public sector spending and a global financial crisis. He warned Jamaicans to brace for tough measures that would be outlined in the 2009-2010 national budget.

“When the debate is held, we will outline the tough choices we have had to make and why we had to make them,” Golding said, hinting that urgent attention would be paid to tax reform.

“There are some people who are paying too much tax and others who are paying too little or getting away without paying. We have spent a long time studying and analyzing.

“The time has come when we must do what we have long needed to do to make our tax system just and equitable and one that helps to stimulate rather than stifle investment, production and job creation,” Golding added.

The Prime Minister also said there were plans to cut government expenditure.

“The people of Jamaica are entitled to better roads and water supplies, but we are not going to be able to spend as much as we would like on these projects,” Golding said.

However, he indicated there would be areas where the government can not reduce expenditure.

“We can’t cut back what we are spending to fight crime, educate our children, provide health care and assist the pensioners and the very poor. These are vital services on which, even in these hard times, we have to spend more, not less. So deeper cuts have to be made in other areas; we have no choice,” he said.

Golding warned that government agencies would come under increased scrutiny.

“It costs us over $70 billion (US$795.4 million) per year to finance government activities, not including wages. We have to cut that back. Use less electricity, make fewer phone calls, use less stationery and do less driving up and down.

“I expect them to rise to the occasion and I will meet with them at the end of each quarter to evaluate how well they have performed,” he said.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding has warned Jamaicans that they face tough economic times after he announced a freeze on public sector wages and a salary cut for himself.

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