Minister of State for the Public Service, the Hon. Pia Glover-Rolle said unemployment has decreased from record highs to pre-pandemic levels.
“In fact, since last year, it has already decreased by an additional two per cent,” the Minister of State said during her Contribution to the Mid-Year Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, March 1, 2023.
“Tourist arrivals are exceeding pre-pandemic levels. We are on track for a record-breaking year – kudos to the Member for The Exumas and Ragged Island.”
She said last year, the country experienced eight percent economic growth and the Central Bank is predicting an additional six to seven per cent in economic growth for this year.
The Minister of State said the government has hired hundreds of new officers in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Royal Bahamas Police Force, and Department of Immigration.
She also noted that within the Public Service, the government paid out double increments across the board and made payments reflecting the increase in minimum wage.
The Minister of State said after years of union leaders crying about poor engagement from government, this government administration has successfully signed over 15 new agreements.
“Remember when they said the MOU we signed with the unions before the election was just a political ploy? What they fail to understand, that we understand, is that good governance is the best politics. It was in our best interest to keep our word because it was in the country’s best interest.
“In total, $20 million dollars was budgeted for new union agreements, and we were able to keep expenditures below this amount at $18 million.”
She said this is the first time ever that new agreements did not lead to huge overspending in the budget, because this is the first time that the agreements were actually completely budgeted for.
Fiscal Management in the Public Service
The Minister of State explained that the Ministry of the Public Service has taken its commitment to fiscal management very seriously.
“We are largely on target despite a number of items implemented during this fiscal year that were not initially budgeted for. But for the sake of our public servants, we embarked upon an ambitious agenda with a full understanding that some reallocation would be necessary to facilitate high priority items.”
She said, “So far, for the year, we have spent roughly 55 per cent of the allotted budget. We are requesting an additional 8 per cent increase to cover necessary expenses.”
The Minister of State noted that among the major expenses are amounts related to salaries.
She said compensation of employees widened due to accelerated staff promotions, salary adjustments, hiring for new and existing agencies and units, the payment of arrears, confirmations and reclassifications.
The Minister of State said for Permanent and Pensionable employees, the Ministry is requesting an additional $1.2 million in funding.
“We have prioritized these items and are working as quickly as possible to get our public servants the money they have earned. My constant refrain has been: behind each delay in payment and each stagnant promotional exercise is a Bahamian with hopes, dreams, and ambitions. For this reason, we will not stop working until every matter is resolved.”
She said the government also funded the return of increments for all permanent and pensionable public servants after they were halted by the previous administration.
The Minister of State said, “Within the first half of this budget cycle, we funded the public service minimum wage increase to cushion the impact of global inflationary forces and improve the standard of living for government employees at the lowest levels of the pay scale.”