Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Public Workers, Nurses, and Police Officers have had extraordinary improvements in their working conditions under his administration.
Dr Gonsalves who was delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of the 46th Annual Conference of the Caribbean Public Service Association (CPA) held at the Russell’s Auditorium on July 17, told those gathered that although conditions had improved there was still much more to be done, “which we have to do in solidarity with one another”.
PM Gonsalves said it was understandable that there would be a tension between demand and resources “but when that tension occurs our government is always willing to go the extra mile, but I do not run a government only for the public servants”.
He said he had to do a balance and this country suffered tremendously from the global economic crisis and prior to that the removal of the banana preferences.
He noted that there was also a real challenge coping with the fallout from CLICO and BICO demise which amounted to 17 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of this country and the natural disasters which occurred during the period 2010-2013, amounting in damage in excess of 40 percent of the GDP of this country, yet we are still standing
He added that 60 percent of the recurrent expenditure of this country is paid in salaries and wages and retirement benefits for public servants.
“Now, the only way I can reasonably increase that percentage or the quantum if not the percentage is by “growing the pie” a little more that means I have to do a lot of infrastructural work and put the country on a sustainable path of development.”
Also touching on the topic of solidarity from an historical background, he said in the 1930s there were anti-colonial uprisings across the Caribbean, he said what struck him was among the demands of all the leaders in these countries was that we must have a university of the West Indies, “we are talking about workers who didn’t finish primary school, peasants who couldn’t read and write but their leaders said to them we have to look to the future and education is vital and we must have a university,
He said what was interesting they were in solidarity with a number of things but when you read the Moyne Commission Report which came out after the war, the report indicated that thus was a persistent demand (a university) not only from the leaders themselves but from ordinary people whom they met.
Making reference to the offspring of the struggles in the context of solidarity, he said political parties and trade unions emerged and also the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Business sessions for the conference will end on Friday.