The Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) has urged outstanding public bodies and their staff associations to continue to be transparent and communicate to their membership the details of the proposed salary packages, and the risks that they face in terms of payments being possibly protracted over years, rather than them receiving their increased compensation in full for 2022-23.
In a statement, EPOC said it was also asking the Government to continue to make itself available for open discussions with the leadership and possibly the employees they represent, “as time is not on our side as negotiations must be completed to ensure that the payments can be made from Jamaica’s consolidated fund by March 31, 2023”.
EPOC Chairman, Keith Duncan, said: “Jamaica cannot afford to reverse the tremendous gains that all Jamaicans have made, inclusive of the public service, who have observed great restraint and sacrifice to achieve.
“We are very concerned about the risks of derailment of the macro-fiscal programme or possible further breakdown in industrial relationships between the GoJ (Government of Jamaica) and its employees.
“EPOC is appealing for good sense to prevail.”
BREACH OF FISCAL RULES
The EPOC noted that the Government more than three years ago, engaged in a comprehensive review and rationalisation of public sector compensation.
In the current fiscal year, in light of the Public Sector Compensation review, the Public Sector Wages and Salaries Bill is projected to increase from $222.5 billion in 2021/22 to $318 billion (64 per cent increase) in 2022/23.
“This $318 billion is projected at around 11.4 per cent of GDP. In the following fiscal year, 2023/24, wages and salaries are projected to increase to $338 billion, remaining around 11.4 per cent of GDP, as GDP is projected to grow at 1.6 per cent in the next Fiscal year.”
Noting wages and salaries should not exceed nine per cent of GDP, the EPOC indicated that, in its efforts to increase and rationalise compensation, the Government would continue to breach this fiscal rule.
“Notwithstanding the breaking of the Wages to GDP Fiscal rules, the GoJ will continue to meet it fiscal and primary balance rules by managing expenditures and the lower debt servicing costs which will keep Jamaica’s fiscal programme on track,” EPOC said.
NO CARRY OVER
“This provided EPOC with some comfort, as we had recommended to the GoJ in past communique that the Wages and Salaries to GDP rule be reviewed and amended.
“The total envelope of $318 billion has been allocated for all Groups and by law the ‘Fiscal Administration and Audit Act’ no portion of this expenditure can be carried over into the new financial year of 2023/24 and therefore has to be expensed in the current fiscal year which ends on March 31, 2023.”
The EPOC added: “The implication of this is that, if negotiations are not completed within the next week or some binding legal agreement is not made with those outstanding bodies, the balances cannot be carried forward into next year and there will have to be some agreement made to defer or stretch the current year payments not expensed over a period of time.”