Jamaicans expect biggest budget to bring huge changes
Some public sector workers say that they are hoping for better treatment from the Government after it tabled the first ever trillion-dollar national budget.
Finance and Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke presented the historic Estimates of Expenditure for fiscal year 2023/24 in the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon.
Of note is the $338 billion allocated for wages and salaries for public sector employees, the largest single item of expenditure in the budget. Clarke also announced that interest payments this year of $155 billion will be fully financed by revenue, which means that for an eighth consecutive fiscal year, Jamaicans will not be faced with any new taxes.
However, Cedric*, who operates a route taxi in the downtown Kingston area, said the new budget will count for nothing if not used properly.
"The Government come with dem enforcement of the new Road Traffic Act and baay things, but mi wah see wah dem a go do wid taxpayers' money this time round, because a nearly one trillion dem spend last year and di conditions no better. Dem a fine wi an arm and leg for fitness but have taxpayers a drive pon bad roads. Dat mek sense bredda?" the experienced cabbie argued.
He has also urged the Government to attend to the many broken Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses that are operational as it poses what he considers an obvious double standard.
"One trillion dollar a nuff money fi di Government spend and dem better use some a it and fix dem yellow bus dem, because it no fair fi police chase wi every day fi all sort of motor vehicle issues and dem a drive round like nothing nah gwan, and most a dem don't have a break light," the cabbie said.
His sentiments were echoed by a police constable, who said he was hoping for the Government and the Police Federation to reach an agreement over wage increase negotiations.
"A three different loans mi a pay back right now, so yuh know how that go. It's about time the parties reach a deal because, as you can see, it's high risk working as a security personnel in Jamaica, particularly as a police officer," the lawman reasoned.
The federation's chairman, Corporal Rohan James, yesterday said that "we are still negotiating" when THE STAR inquired about the status of the negotiations.
"Nothing will be signed until we see an improved package that can properly compensate our rank and file members," he said.
The entities have been at loggerheads for sometime now and up to November, 15 trade unions had signed a new compensation package offered to public-sector workers, except for the Jamaica Teacher's Association and the police.
"We want better remuneration, there are 'talks' to improve the look of members of the force but that is not enough to take care of reality which is to put food on the table for your family," remarked the constable as he directed vehicular traffic.
A public-sector nurse shared that she too was looking forward to seeing how the Government would handle the budget following the landmark announcement.
"We as nurses, we don't get the respect that our job demands of us. For example, if you go back to the heights of COVID, can you imagine what hospitals would be like if nurses decided to go on strike then because of the poor salary? I am eager to see how the finance minister will adjust the budget," the public caregiver said.
*Name changed to protect identity