I was very apprehensive watching the deliberation of the Senate as it considered the supplemental budget sent by the Turnbull/Richards administration, Friday May 7, 2004. As usual, the grand standing took place in spite of the time constrain. The Senators, even those from the majority block, though they have been meeting in their caucus, on the floor it was evident that they were not together. They continued in the same traditional way of capitulating to the unionss demands in spite of the fiscal crisis that our government is experiencing. Sen. Donastorg, Chairperson of the Finance Committee, made an impassioned plea to his colleagues to be fiscally responsible in making amendments without full analysis of the implications, reminding them of errors of the past.
I did not see nor heard any creative proposals to honestly address the fiscal crisis. The idea of restoring the personnel merit system, which to me is the fairest method of addressing compensation for government workers across the board, when administered properly, was not even mentioned. It appeared that the senators were not interested in improving public services by fairly and reasonably compensating public servants and by reducing the number of unclassified positions throughout the government. It appears that the senators are not interested in promoting the concept of professional public service, where individuals can enter the service and expect to be recognized for upward mobility, even if the monetary compensation is less than in the private sector.
Originally people entered public service with the understanding that they will not be paid at the same rate as the private sector, they did it out patriotism and the desire to serve their community. Job security and other fringe benefits compensated for the difference in pay between the two systems. But today public servants, at the urging of the unions, want everything: high pay, sometimes higher than in the private sector, and all the fringe benefits not available generally in the private sector. They do not care if the government goes bankrupt as long as their demands of higher salaries are met.
The unions are responsible for pressuring the politicians into eroding the effectiveness of the personnel merit system by their greed and the politician's lack of vision and courage. By not putting a cap to the unions salary demands the politicians have virtually allowed the unions to hold the government hostage, by blackmailing the government with job actions and strike threats.
I truly hope the people of the Virgin Islands would assume their political responsibility of selecting and electing persons who share their values and political goals, people who are intelligent and who possess courage and integrity to replace those who have betrayed their trust now in the legislature. The people need to support their candidates with their resources, which include time and money. May God, Allah have mercy on us all, may we have the wisdom and courage to do what is prudent to improve our government and leave a better legacy for our children
Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e_mailed with name and place of residence to firstname.lastname@example.org.