The prime minister made the remark when speaking at the 32nd Annual Private Sector Banquet hosted by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CIC) at the Marriott Resort.
He indicated that over 3,000 persons were registered with PEP and is costing the government unsustainable sums of money. He said that if a private sector led growth is possible, “there will be no need for the public sector to continue to support such a massive PEP program”. He disclosed, “As of the 8th July 2015, PEP has been carried at a cost of EC$141 million over its 133 week duration.”
He explained that for a small population, it would be more useful to target productivity issues of our human resources.
Harris proffered, “I am open for suggestions and proposals from the private sector, regarding public-private partnership initiatives around training and permanent employment for PEP workers.”
The federation’s prime minister wants the private sector to create more jobs to spur economic growth, as workers use disposable income for goods and services, helping to generate economic growth in the process.
PEP was initiated under the former Labour-led administration and was used to put many unemployed and underemployed people to work. Leading into the last general elections, the program came in for heavy criticism on the way it was being run, and there have been allegations of abuse of the program.
Last week during his monthly press conference, Prime Minister Harris disclosed that the PEP Committee had been disbanded. He said, “There was no reason whatsoever to superimpose that kind of administrative structure, with respect to PEP.”
Harris indicated that the operations of PEP is still under investigation, but pointing to an anomaly of the PEP operation, the prime minister said, “The past administration paid to a hotel owner some three million dollars. We can’t find the rationale nor purpose for that use, or otherwise, of the public funds.” This is a matter, he said, is still being pursued.
He continued, “How could any sane Cabinet in this country, or any other country, put three million dollars, just so, and no accounting officer in the government could explain to this administration why three million dollars was paid to that particular establishment.
With the cost of running the PEP revealed, several radio talk shows have been abuzz on what to do with PEP, without sending hundreds of persons back into unemployment.