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Civil Service’s wings need to be trimmed

OK, so we all understand the country is in deep financial trouble. The Government admits to it, the Chamber of Commerce admits to it, and every sector of commerce has expressed pain. When the economy contracts as it has, it means government itself is unsustainable.

The Government Administration Building is the heartbeat of the Civil Service (Photograph by Google Maps)

Generally, there are two things that are done when governments become underfunded: either they raise taxes or cut service. What we have done instead is a third method: raised debt.

Bermuda, which acquires a good portion of its tax revenue from import duties and employment tax, is already overly taxed particularly now with shrinking imports and job losses. The long-mooted idea of progressive tax is extremely late on the conveyor belt and, however warranted, to suddenly install it would take the last bit of wind out of our commercial guts. So we come back to the option to cut service or cut the cost of the services that the Government provides — or a combination of both. The Government is the elephant in the room.

Governments to date have danced around the topic because the Civil Service is huge and represents a significant political constituency. For fear of political repercussions, governments have been reluctant to ruffle the feathers of this very huge government sector of employment. The economic reality is that not only do the feathers need to be ruffled, but wings need to be trimmed.

There is the argument that layoffs will only further burden social service through subsidies and welfare cheques. It is a fair observation, prompting the best alternative, which is across-the-board reductions done progressively where the heavier earners contributing more. The rationale being there are low wage earners whose pay scale is such they just manage to stay above poverty, while there are those whose pay scale affords a grandiose lifestyle.

To lead by example, Cabinet ministers can take a $25,000 cut and will still be earning a handsome salary. The situation we face calls for bold leadership, those who are prepared to lose their seat if necessary to achieve the right balance. If the Civil Service seeks to hold the country hostage, accept resignations and make the cuts anyway.

This is the time when the country has to preach the gospel of shared sacrifice. It happens in times of war when provisions become scarce: we ration supplies and our young persons give up their careers to go to war.

There comes a point when for the survival of the country a level of patriotism and sacrifice for the greater good are required. It’s a matter of morality when leaders, whether of political organisations or civic, need to take an exemplar role that helps to save the country.

If we have leaders, even those in unions, who cannot see their role during these hard times, the country will be doomed as a result. Entrepreneurs and businesses do it all the time — when business gets soft, often they take care of the staff and are the last to benefit, if at all. In centuries gone, when the aristocracy led the peasantry to make sacrifice while they lavished, it led to revolution.

It is simply immoral during hard times that are as enduring as these issues facing the economy are, where there is no end in sight and the options for the poor are filled with gloom, for the Civil Service to go on untarnished and emboldened without a similar sacrifice.

It has already passed the hour when this saga must be called for what it truly is. Everywhere leaders go, someone must inform them — all of them — they are selfishly wrong and need to take a significant cut. This you can shout from the highest mountain because it is time and it is manifest that the people cannot afford the oppressive weight of paying for a government and services when they are unable.

Borrowing money because they don’t have the fortitude to do what needs to be done burdens our future and leaves too few workers carrying the load of an expensive government. It has reached a point when it is immoral for the country to continue on this path.

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Published October 30, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated October 29, 2021 at 6:13 pm)

Civil Service’s wings need to be trimmed

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