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Are public servants a privileged group?

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20.FEB.09

EDITOR: Since 2001, it appears as though the ULP government has gone out of its way to make public servants, teachers, nurses and the police a privileged group. It is true that they had a lot of catching-up to do because of the lean years under the NDP. But they are now doing well. In fact, they are getting more than a fair share of the national cake. Still, they are not satisfied.{{more}}

Recently, the Prime Minister gave some interesting figures in Parliament, category-by category, of the teachers’ salaries, top and bottom of each grade, from 2001 to 2009. The increases range from 25 percent at the bottom of the lowest grade to nearly 70 percent at the top. No one from the Teachers’ Union disputed these facts. I believe that similar increases have been made for public servants, and even more for nurses and policemen/women.

The PM also spoke of the huge increase in the salary bill over the last few years, partly as a result of the hiring of more teachers, nurses and police, but largely because of the salary increases and the reclassification monies. The PM told Parliament that in 2006 the salary bill was $152 million; in 2007, it was $168 million (that is, $16 million more); and in 2008, the salary bill was $186 million or $34 million more than in 2006. In 2009, the figure the government plans to spend on salaries is $197 million. How much more can the state afford?

I saw on the Internet that of all CARICOM countries, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the two with the greatest expenditure on public servants’ salaries as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Several weeks ago, I read Renwick Rose’s article, which asked if the public servants and teachers get more and more, what would be left for poor people and the struggling farmers. It is a good question.

I realise that even with these big increases, things are still tight with public servants and teachers, but they have received quite a fair share recently. They must now produce more if they want more; that is my view.

The benefits the teachers and public servants get are enormous. I am not talking about bonuses and such cash perks. What about their generous study leave and holidays? They are privileged, compared to the rest of us in the private sector.

Norman Wilson

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