Economist Dr Vaalmikki Arjoon has expressed the view that the wage increase offer put on the table by the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) for public sector workers is simply not enough.
“The proposed two per cent hike in salaries is minuscule and quite frankly unfair, especially given the increase in prices and the overall cost of living since the last time salaries increased in 2013,” Dr Arjoon, a finance lecturer at the University of the West Indies, said yesterday.
He explained that currently, prices for all items consumed daily are the highest they have ever been for a myriad of reasons.
He said, “Global supply chain constraints are causing an increase in the prices of goods we import for resale locally and raw materials for the manufacturing process, the escalated cost of shipping and, of course, these have all been compounded by the hike in energy prices, and more recently, the higher price for fuel at the pump which not only exacerbates the cost of living but also the cost of doing business, which will again be passed on to consumers as higher prices.”
Arjoon said the two per cent increase for many households is not even going to be adequate to cover the added cost of fuel they are now incurring, especially those who drive from Central, South and East Trinidad daily for work in Port-of-Spain.
“Furthermore, this amount or any other increase in salaries will be virtually taken away indirectly when the property tax is levied, yet another measure that will increase the cost of living,” he added.
Economist Dr Indera Sagewan shared similar views.
“A two per cent obviously can in no way compensate over the last eight years for that loss in purchasing power, so it is really too low.”
On the other hand, she acknowledged, “given where the economy in Trinidad and Tobago is, a wage increase is a challenging issue to put on the table.”
Sagewan also added that the productivity issue cannot be ignored, as it is related to the public sector.
“In my view, no conversation about wage increase should be happening without the addon of the issue of productivity,” Sagewan said.
She said this is to ensure that wage increases are tagged on to greater efficiency.
And while the conversation is about wage negotiations, Dr Sagewan said the real imperative this country faces “is an absence of growth.”
“I am talking about what is the Government doing and what has it been doing for the last, I would say, some odd 20 to 25 years to grow the economy of Trinidad and Tobago?”
She said because of this, the Government now finds itself “caught between a rock and a hard place” where the wage demand is a legitimately owed one, which is necessary given the cost of living but the ability to afford it in a sustained manner is not there.