Government has settled 66 out of 75 collective agreements, Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie said yesterday. As a result of this, the revised salaries, cola (Cost of Living Allowance) and allowances bill for the public sector up to 2013 was $8.5 billion, he added.
Speaking in the debate on the Appropriation Bill in the Senate, Tewarie said steps were being taken to settle the other negotiations. “What that means is that not only was time consumed in these legacy negotiations, left by the last administration which we had to carry, but in the process we settled 66, and each one of them has a cost. And that cost has to be paid and met,” he said.
Referring to criticisms from the Opposition, Tewarie said: “So it is easy to come here and blow a lot of hot air and make insinuations about what the Minister of Finance is doing, but you have to acknowledge that $8.5 billion was legacy debt for the labour sector through 66 negotiations out of 75.
Tewarie said the economy was more solid and poised in the right direction now than it was in 2010.
Tewarie dismissed criticisms by People’s National Movement Senator Lester Henry, saying Henry sought to confuse and to make nonsense of the rational position being articulated by the Government.
“He knows better. And to make the kinds of charges and insinuations he did against the minister and members on this side is not to be speaking the truth. Tewarie noted that Henry conceded the country was on a growth path, even while asking what was there to boast about.
“We need not boast about it, but we need to acknowledge it. We need to acknowledge that there is macro-economic stability and strength in the economy. We need to acknowledge that there is a return to growth in 2012 and there would be an increase upon that growth in 2013. We need to acknowledge that the diversification process is in train, as manifested by the growth in the services and non-energy sectors… We need to acknowledge that inflation is very low and food inflation, which was 28 per cent at some time over the last four years, was today 11 per cent… We need to acknowledge that unemployment is extremely low,” Tewarie said. —Ria Taitt