There are no plans to downsize the St. Lucia civil service or cut the salaries of civil servants, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said.
Responding to a reporter’s question about rumours of pay cuts and downsizing at a press briefing on Tuesday, Chastanet emphasized that his government intends “to help improve the productivity of the civil service” and that if there is going to be any downsizing of the civil service it is going to come through attrition.
Attrition is the gradual reduction of the size of a workforce by not replacing personnel lost through retirement or resignation.
“The first part is to create a process change so that’s what we call the re-engineering of the civil service, with the idea of maybe being able to get people to have higher salaries but less people, but it’s going to be done through attrition.
“There is absolutely no proposal on the table that I know of, and I am the minister of finance, to any pay cuts. Not part of the proposal, never been even considered to be part of the proposal. We have continuously talked about how we can strengthen the civil service, how can we make more resources available to them,” he explained.
Chastanet said government’s budget has been “depleted severely” because monies that should be fixing infrastructure and fixing schools, among other things, have been cut.
He said no “policy adjustments” have been made to address this matter, while the level of expenditure continues to be primarily driven by the level of debt.
“So when you looked… from 2011 all the way until 2016, the fastest growing expenditure item was debt-financing. That’s what we we’ve gotta be able to solve,” he said.
Chastanet further noted that the economy is not big enough to cover the country’s expenses.
“Healthcare we are under financed, education we are underfinance, policing we are underfinanced, infrastructure we are underfinanced.”
And increasing taxes will not solve the issue, he said.
“If we continue to increase taxes because we believe that we are entitled to be able to make those expenditures, we think that is going to come at the expense of investment, so the more taxes you put on, the more it discourages people from investing in their country.
“And that’s why when I hear people saying… how can Chastanet be saying that the country is broke but at the same time he is lowering taxes? Because the goal of our government, and we’ve said it, is to double the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). So we must make St. Lucia more attractive to be able to invest and that investment is not just foreign direct investment, it is regional investment and it is local investment.
“So how do you encourage people to invest? They must have confidence that when they put the money in that there is an opportunity for them to see a return on that investment. So that’s why we are trying to put more money in people’s pockets, that people have the consumption power to be able to buy homes, to go to the grocery, and that’s how investors see that there is a return on their investment.”