Interview Minster Adam on meeting with SCCI

September 02, 2013

It’s been part of our ongoing dialogue with the private sector. After Minister Benstrong and I first met with the Chamber of Commerce, we agreed to have regular consultations as and when needed. We are coming close to the mid-year budget review and I committed to the private sector that I will very much involve them in the budget process, so in June we will be having a more detailed meeting for example on the budget but we took the opportunity today to discuss areas that are affecting the private sector, the cost and ease of doing business in general.

We also took the opportunity to discuss the issue of the 13th month salary, so as has already announced by our Principal Secretary, the government has already committed to do this for the public sector, we would very much like the private sector to do the same, but obviously it is very important for us to engage with them on what are the scope and what are the challenges that they face in relation to this. This is one of the items that we took up with them as well as following up on a number of other issues that were raised last time, and which we continue to discuss with them with the view to finding an agreeable way forward.

There’s always been a relatively close relationship, but what we are trying to do now is to very much stimulate a national debate and I think the Chamber’s concern is that it wants to reflect the views of all businesses; to do that it has to do it publicly and it has to engage perhaps more regularly with the government. At the same time, from the government’s perspective, we note for example that the government has more or less the main mechanism to address these issues is the budget, but the consultations on the budget should not be just one month before the budget, it has to be continuous and throughout the year and that’s the best way that we can engage. It is not necessarily a new approach, it is something that was already there but we have ramped up the regularity and the frequency by which we are meeting.

On most of the points we agreed that further consultation was needed on the question of the 13th month salary, the private sector obviously expressed concerns that this will just increase the cost of business for them; we explained the rationale that the government has already committed to do it for the public sector, but that it is very important that the private sector also come on board. We felt that several advantages can come out of this; for example linking the 13th month salary to performance is something which we will be doing in the public sector but also doing it in the private sector can perhaps even improve results. It is a positive way of incentive-based action, but we do understand their concerns that they have in relation to that cost, but we will have an ongoing and inclusive discussions with them to address those concerns systematically; for example looking that it doesn’t necessarily need to be applied at all levels of salary. In government in any case we had already said that it will be capped, it will not apply to highest earners but will be aimed at the middle and the bottom. So, these are some of the elements that we have discussed and as we continue to put in place the mechanisms we will continue to consult them.

We will continue to discuss a number of these items; they also took up the issue of the proposed property tax for example with us; this is something that is an ongoing discussion. The private sector first made a proposal to us and which the government has been examining since then and we are putting forward these proposals in discussions with them, so specifically the next step will be June, we will be having a much wider consultation in which we will be meeting the chamber on the question of the budget where will be reviewing what we have done so far since the application of the budget last year for 2015 and looking towards 2016. So, in the immediate the next step would be this budget discussion and where we will further build on the points that we have raised today.

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