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Tuesday, January 17, 2006 

Public sector reform necessary: Dwight Venner
Monday January 16 2006
by Patricia Campbell

The government’s attempt to reform the public sector has received an indirect endorsement from Sir Dwight Venner, governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), on Thursday during a multinational forum that followed his presentation of the 2005 Currency Union Economic Review.

When asked his opinion on the Antigua & Barbuda situation and responding to suggestions that the government’s voluntary severance programme might contravene the citizen’s right to work, Venner said unequivocally that public sector reform is an economic necessity.

“In strictly practical terms, you can’t employ more people than required to provide a service” he said.

Venner said governments need to be competitive in their services and this can be compromised where more people than necessary are employed in the public service, which would increase the government’s costs for producing the services.

“The public sector cannot, ad infinitum, take up the slack in unemployment because they would have to then, tax the productive participants in the system to pay for that.” Venner said.

While Sir Dwight did not comment directly on the Antigua & Barbuda government’s voluntary separation programme, he spoke extensively on the notion of public sector reform as inevitable if sustainable economic progress was to be achieved in the Currency Union.

He referred to the issue as fundamental for the ECCB, which was depending on governments to implement measures that lead to healthier economies.

As an alternative to over subscription of public sector employment, he proposed that the appropriate conditions need to be put in place which would allow the private sector to employ productive people.

Venner said in order for this to happen, it would require the concerted effort of the government, private sector and unions. “It is not simply a question of governments trying to solve the problem by themselves in employing people. In the long run that does not work.”

In his presentation, Sir Dwight described Antigua & Barbuda’s effort to restructure its public finances as “a painful process.” He noted that all the ECCU countries have been faced with “fiscal and debt imbalances due to the high per capita cost of government, small populations, inelastic tax systems and the excessive demands placed on governments in liberal democratic systems with competitive party politics.”

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