SENIOR economics lecturer at the University of the West Indies Dr Roger Hosein says the State needs to monitor the number of workers being channelled into make-work programmes if it is to improve the economy.
He was speaking in response to a question posed to him about the $21.9 million paid to former workers of the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) who were axed in 2010.
A settlement was reached between the Banking Insurance General Workers Union (BIGWU) – which represented the former workers in the Industrial Court – and the Ministry of Labour last year.
On Monday, some of the 529 former employees began receiving cheques at the Cipriani Labour College, Valsayn.
Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said the workers will receive two months’ salary for each year they worked in the URP. Hosein, contacted for comment Tuesday said, the release of funds is “a welcome relief for these workers and certainly they will be able to have a joyful and joyous Christmas providing they can receive their money before the Christmas period.”
He added, however, that the country needs to take a careful look at how resources are spent on programmes such as URP and the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP).
The state must be cautious, he said, “especially whether or not these sectors are characterised by surplus labour and, therefore, whether or not we should be shedding labour from these sectors in order to make them available to other parts of the country.
“Surplus labour in any sector would result in a low level of average productivity, and a low level of average productivity, in the context of fixed costs, affects profitability.”
Hosein said the State would need to monitor the number of workers it channels into various make-work programmes as it tries to structurally improve the economy and transform it away from a dependence of government handouts.