Wednesday, April 24, 2024

EDITORIAL: Govt must spend more judiciously

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In the face of continuously depressing news about the performance of the country’s economy, the last thing the public wants to hear is anything which they see as iniquitous.

This is precisely the response, fair or unfair, many citizens will have on hearing of the state’s purchase of a number of new expensive vehicles.

Government which has been struggling to deal with its fiscal deficit and is looking to make major cuts in its expenditure while containing spending in every possible way, needs to be prudent in whatever it does.

So that while money must still be spent for the important and necessary things, there must be a consistent message coming from the state at this time. The public should not feel that some people and agencies are immune from the belt-tightening measures and can enjoy additional benefits, while others must endure continuous hardship.

The purchase of vehicles by the state is admittedly a necessity and is not for the politicians in Barbados as is the case in some other Caribbean nations. So, the real concern is the timing of the purchase and the choice of sports utility vehicles.

Little wonder the outcry, from both the uninformed and informed on this issue, who regard these particular vehicles as being the wrong type during a period of austerity.

In a country with an open system in the social media age where people will speak to the issues which bother them, accountability is key.

It means that Government, at both the level of the political directorate and senior technocrats, can no longer ignore any outcry and complaints from the public.

In this particularly situation, Government should have taken a proactive approach since it was almost predictable the kind of response likely in this environment. And, it does not matter whether this is seen as normal perks of the job given to senior executives in the private or public sectors.

The situation also speaks to the bigger issue within the public sector where there is a general feeling of inefficiency and wastage as it relates to the use of state-owned vehicles.

There is some curiosity in knowing how many vehicles Government actually owns and why there isn’t a central fleet management system in place. For the uninformed there is the matter of whether one insurance company provides coverage for Government’s fleet and at preferential rates, whether they are any strict guidelines on the use of the petrol pump at Central Purchasing and why there are the use of high-end vehicles by couriers to deliver mail and other documents.

Taxpayers in this country deserve the most judicious decisions being taken by public officials on their behalf. Those in charge of the public sector must understand that it is not only how things are done, but the impressions given which matter. After all, perception can be reality.

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