Record 61 pct of Suriname workforce in government employment

By Ewout Lamé

PARAMARIBO – The number of people employed by the government has climbed again. Stats from the Bureau for Statistics (ABS) show that 61 percent of the working population was employed by the government last year. These stats do not include people employed by the state enterprises. ABS presented the figures yesterday.

These figures seem to be unique on an international level. Members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a western alliance, show a 15 percent average. Norway is the western country where the highest number of the working population, 29 percent, is employed by the government. Even southern neighbor Brazil employs only 8.6 percent, while in Russia the figure is 20 percent.

Ferdinand Welzijn, chair of the Trade and Industry Association (VSB) explains that the situation calls for concern. ‘If the country’s largest employer’s funds suddenly dry up, it could decide to use the money press, causing more inflation.’ Welzijn points out that the government competes with the business community for staff, while businesses already earn money for the economy.

Personnel costs have soared in the 2008-2011 period. The costs include gross income and all other expenses by the employer on behalf of his staff. Government wages soared with 49 percent, while mining and manufacturing had 58 and 80 percent respectively. Welzijn points out that the increases in personnel costs are linked to government payrises. ‘The government could afford an increase because its revenues were higher, but that caused an enormous pressure on the business community.’ The VSB executive explains that the pressure to stay competitive has also fueled the cost. ‘Companies that want to stay competitive must be able to pay their staff in order to keep them.’

ABS figures show that from the latter half of 2011 through the first half of 2012 Suriname’s exports exceeded imports. The gold industry was good for 60 percent or more of the export value each quarter. Welzijn thinks “we’d rather not be too enthusiastic about the trade surplus”. ‘We are currently profiting from high prices for raw materials, but when prices go down, exports will continue but revenues will be less.’ The VSB chair advises diversification of the economy.

de Ware Tijd, 4 september 2012

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