Loose spending exacerbated by job losses
The Government recently released its 2018 Digest of Statistics Report, providing an annual summary of various socioeconomic statistics covering the period 2007 to 2017. It is a lengthy document and is well worth a read for those who have the patience for volumes of statistical information.
My interest was in the labour/job statistics section, which begins on page 35. It is worthy of note that the total number of occupied jobs in 2007 was 39,849. Fast forward to 2017 and that number has contracted to 33,653 — a loss of 6,196 jobs. The total number of work permits in 2007 was 18,131 and as of 2017, it is down to 9,634 — a loss of 8,497 foreign-worker permits.
When you consider that all jobs in the private sector, be they work-permit or not, pay for everything in the public sector — ie, all government and Civil Service functions — it becomes abundantly clear why the Government is having trouble paying its bills. This job loss over the past ten years has a huge negative effect on government coffers. Couple this loss of revenue with their interest payments, which in 2017, were $500,000 per day and no one should wonder why this administration — or any other, for that matter — is forced to conjure revenue-grabbing tax proposals when Budget time rolls around.
So what exactly are the Government’s problems? Sure, the effects of the debt and job losses are obvious and the new/higher taxes are a consequence. But what is also abundantly clear is that the Government has a spending problem. The amount of times we hear about the inefficiencies and sheer negligence of how they spend our money is impossible to keep track of any more.
Whether it be consultants who are hired for 17 years costing $1.7 million to figure out a bus schedule, or $5.4 million to fund a gaming commission panel that still has no gaming industry, or a double payment of $807,000 — never paid back — made to the operators of the failed, dilapidated Sandys 360 sports centre, a defunct building that the Government then purchased for $1 million and will maintain. Or how about a $1 million-plus payoff to a private sector health services provider who claimed he was unfairly targeted by a reduction of the Government’s imaging service cost structure when the government administration’s own health council press release says he was not targeted.
But don’t take my word for it. Have a read of the many Auditor-General reports. The “Matters of Special Importance” lists are long and loaded, with very stern warnings about financial irregularities and a lack of accounting documentation for many payments made.
Let me say that I commend the efforts of the Premier, David Burt, and this administration to help revive our flagging economy with a new fintech industry and also the good news that was just announced regarding the new fintech-friendly bank, which is to be set up on the island to facilitate the operation of crypto and blockchain companies that will hopefully generate private-sector jobs.
However, I would ask ... no, implore ... that this administration pick up the mouldy, moth-eaten 2013 Spending and Government Efficiency report, and start implementing some of the many recommendations that will help our government to operate more efficiently and curb some of the “open wallet” spending habits, which are blatantly obvious to us, the taxpayers, who are always forced to fund them.
Steve Jobs once said: “If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.”
I think we have one.