Controversial decision: The parliament building in Bridgetown, Barbados. *Public domain photo
Controversial decision: The parliament building in Bridgetown, Barbados. *Public domain photo

An island struggling with government waste, an economic downturn, inefficient bureaucracy and publicly-funded sinkholes.

Sound familiar?

But it is Barbados — not Bermuda — that has decided to deal with its fiscal mess by dropping the hammer on its workforce, axing 3,000 public sector jobs.

The Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE) report begs the question: is Bermuda next?

“I think this whole country should be worried about something like that,” Kevin Grant, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, said.

“That’s a huge number of jobs but what we need to realize in Bermuda, especially in an economic recession where we’re making every effort to revive the economy, there are certain things that must stay in place. Public services must be kept at a certain level.”

Grant, whose union includes about 3,600 workers, hopes that governmental efficiencies can be found through reducing operational costs without cutting jobs.

“There needs to be meaningful dialogue. What are the priorities of the government? What are the big plans? 

“And also if there are going to be some recommendations, we want to have that conversation.”

Shadow Minister of Finance and PLP MP David Burt, like Grant, said he was opposed to public sector job cuts, but acknowledged that reductions in the workforce were possible.

“We caution the OBA against cutting jobs, as job cuts will only serve to further weaken our fragile economy. The focus must be on increasing revenue and diversifying the economy,” said Burt through a written statement. 

“However, after breaking their promises on term limits, reducing spending and holding a referendum on gaming we expect that their pre-election promise not to cut civil servant jobs is due to also be broken without remorse.”

A call to the Ministry of Finance went unreturned before deadline.

The SAGE report, released last month, details a Bermudian public sector saddled with bureaucratic bloat, unsustainable benefit plans and duplication of services. 

Its recommendations ranged from reducing the number of House of Assembly seats to privatizing services like waste management and airport operations to changing pension plans for government employees. 

Bermuda’s 2013 debt is estimated to be $243 million. Next year, that number could soar to $331 million. 

In Barbados, that country’s public sector wage bill had ballooned to 10 per cent of the country’s GDP, which is among the highest in the region, according to Carribean360.com. 

The International Monetary Fund endorsed the job cuts in Barbados. The IMF, which works to foster financial stability and employment across the globe, highlighted duplication across ministries and suggested social programs such as childcare and housing could be improved. 

Not everyone, however, is applauding the move. Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has criticized Prime Minister Freundel Stuart’s administration slashes to the public sector, calling it “the ultimate betrayal of the mandate of this government”.

The cuts, which will be coupled with wage reductions, will take effect next year. 

The move would save the country an estimated $70 million (USD).