“What I could tell you though, is that the current programme design is fully consistent with what’s in the Budget that was recently passed for the upcoming year. And as a matter of fact then, the performance targets that we’re going to be reviewing for the next cycle, which would be…towards the end of the year will reflect what’s in the Budget…and that increase is not in the Budget,” Wayne Mitchell, Regional Resident Representative for the IMF, said in an interview with WINNFM.
After a three year freeze on increments for civil servants, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas announced at a Labour political meeting at Bank Street, Basseterre, on Friday (12th July) that it was now time to review salaries and wages for civil servants and also to raise the wage for workers on the People Empowerment Programme (PEP).
“My cabinet has said that the time to review salaries and wages is now,” Douglas said. “It’s not only the PEP attendees that gon get pep in dey step (but) the civil servants as well, dey gon get pep in dey step.”
“We believe that this is a movement of a people. We got to move up. We got to move forward and we want everybody in this country to be pepping in their step,” he added.
However, with the IMF saying that no salary increase was budgeted for in the last review of the country’s performance relative to specific targets and benchmarks set for that specific time frame, the question being asked is where the money will come from.
Is it possible that the money will come from the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF), which is a private fund separate and apart from the consolidated fund and which does not have the oversight of the IMF?
Hundreds of PEP workers are already paid from the SIDF.
Asked about the cost of the salary increase, especially for a country under an austerity programme with the IMF, the prime minister said it would either come from grants or revenue.
“As to the cost, the cost of course would have to be determined by the Ministry of Finance when that particular exercise is imminent. The funding—it will either be funded by revenue or by grants as the case may be,” said Prime Minister Douglas at his monthly press conference on July 24.
The IMF regional representative has said that the government thus far “has satisfied the requirements and met specific targets and benchmarks” under the stand-by arrangement with the lending agency.The objectives of the regional IMF programme are designed to bring about fiscal adjustment, strengthen fiscal management, improve effectiveness and efficiency within the public sector and remove obstacles to growth.
It remains to be seen whether a salary increase will affect the government meeting its specific targets and benchmarks with the IMF, although the IMF in its most recent review has said that the country is beginning to show signs of economic recovery.