Today’s Editorial July 29: All must sacrifice

Although segments of the private sector have been feeling the impact of the global economic crisis for more than a year now, Cayman’s public sector has apparently thought itself mostly immune from the financial woes many others were feeling so harshly.

From last year, the previous People’s Progressive Movement administration urged all government entities to curtail spending, and with exception of a mostly successful civil service hiring freeze, was largely ignored.

Indeed, we were dismayed to learn that just prior to the end of the 2008/09 financial year on 30 June, many government ministries, portfolios and authorities went on a wild spending spree, some even paying in advance for items that couldn’t be delivered until months later. This kind of defiant spending in light of the government’s known financial situation seemed to indicate that the public sector felt itself unconnected to the greater good.

Partially as a result of un-reigned spending, the government racked up an operating deficit of almost $75 million in the just-ended financial year.

As Chief Secretary Donovan Ebanks told all civil servants in a circular distributed last Friday, the current financial situation is simply not viable and the situation must be addressed immediately.

The attitude that government can simply borrow its way out of this mess is unrealistic, not to mention selfish.

As a result, Mr. Ebanks warned all civil servants that a series of cost-reduction measures will be implemented across the entire public sector. The cost-cutting measures might even include adjustments to employment conditions, including salaries and benefits.

We say it’s about time.

Nearly everyone in the private sector is now feeling the pinch of the economic crisis. Companies are laying off people, cutting salaries and changing internal policies, all in an effort to reduce operating costs. Many believe the worst of the economic pinch is yet to come.

For the public sector to think it was immune to the country’s economic crisis was unrealistic and now it must, like most everyone else, pay the piper for its past excesses.

But rather than just complain about the hardships it must endure, we hope civil servants answer Mr. Ebanks’ call for ideas on how to cuts costs, and then act seriously to implement them.

As Mr. Ebanks rightly pointed out, in these difficult times, we must all take our share of responsibility and accept sacrifice, and that includes public servants.

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