The Nevisian leader who is also Minister of Finance, said the reorganisation will lead to some workers being laid off, but said a Pension Scheme will be put in place to act as a safety net for non-establishment workers who would have worked for more than ten years.
“The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved the path which we wish to take, and we have the White Oak people who are helping us to restructure the debt. Basically part of the idea is that we would have to discipline ourselves and organise ourselves, and take certain measures locally to cut down costs, to pull back on expenditure and also to stimulate growth,” observed Premier Parry.
“Public Works is one of the government departments that is being reorganised, as it had taken on more people when government was trying to give the economy the chance to recover. Accordingly, 15 persons, most of whom are over 50 have been let off, in an effort to make Public Works lean and productive”, Parry said.
“But what we are doing though is that we are putting in place a pension scheme for non-establishment workers, so that these persons who have been working for so many years and they are now in the 60s and 70s won’t be left destitute, or won’t just be given a little gratuity and that is the end of that,” said the Premier. “We are making sure that they benefit just like civil servants would.”
Touching on statutory bodies, Premier Parry announced that a new bill to govern the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation (NHLDC) will be tabled in the House of Assembly, or the old bill will be modified when the House meets later this month. “With the new bill, the Minister will cease being the Corporation’s chairman and will be required to appoint a chairperson”.
He said that in the Corporation’s reorganisation, the government seeks to put in place a system of operation, as the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation has not had proper accounting, reporting and management systems for the past 20 years, and all those systems need to be put in place.
“We are seeking to improve as we go along. We are seeking for changes; we are seeking to do things right,” said the Premier. “A study was done and that study has come back with recommendations which we are seeking to implement. We are looking at the garage, we are looking at the inventory section, we are looking at other sections of the Housing and Land Development Corporation, and some of these sections will have to go.”
While the Corporation’s inventory section will be done away with, the garage section may have to go somewhere, and Premier Parry proposed that people who have heavy equipment could be given the opportunity to purchase the equipment and operate on their own. The government will examine the administrative section to ensure that the work that they are supposed to be doing is being done.
The Premier also intimated that work will be done on the Nevis Electricity Company (NEVLEC) to find out if this government corporation is lean and productive, and if there would be any need for retrenchment. A similar exercise, Premier Parry said, would take place at the Nevis Air and Sea Ports Authority (NASPA) to ensure that it is productive and covering its expenses.
“The airport has not been earning as much money as it did in the past, but we all know the reasons,” Premier Parry told his listeners. “The fall-off in traffic is because of the state of the economy in the world, the downturn in tourism, and which we hope is coming back.”
Apart from the three corporations, NHLDC, NEVLEC and NASPA, Premier Parry, who is also the Minister of Tourism in the Nevis Island Administration, also looked at the Nevis Tourism Authority (NTA), which he said would be given a “breath of oxygen” as tourism is the island’s number one industry.
“Of course Nevis Tourism Authority has been through a lean spell for the past two years to the point where people say we have starved them out,” remarked the Premier. “We have to begin to let the oxygen in, into the NTA. Let them begin to breathe a little more because it is important to market tourism and promote the island because that is our number one industry.”
The Nevis Tourism Authority will as a result receive funds to enhance their marketing operations that mostly target American and European markets, noted the Premier, and also advised that the Nevis Four Seasons Resort has now agreed to make its contribution to the marketing of Nevis. He said the government will make sure that NTA’s marketing programmes are facilitated.