While our government’s sudden concern for fiscal responsibility with regards to its advertising budget is appreciated, one could easily wonder where similar concern has been for other budgets over the last 10 years. Indeed, simply by taking a handful of categories of government expenditure over the last few years one could quickly account for millions in annual expenditure increases and yet one could ask where the added value has been for the average citizen? Such questions cause us to wonder whether or not we could use some of that same fiscal responsibility applied to advertising applied elsewhere. Especially when there are so many places beyond just advertising that we could find that would help put money back into the pockets of everyday tax payers.
Source: Government budget books, figures for 2008/09 are based upon estimates, 2007/08 and 1994/95 are based upon revised and all others are based on actual’s.
When comparing budget statements from 1998/99 to that of the estimates for 2008/09, one would note that estimated expenditure on travel alone has risen by some $5.1 million. That is quite a hike representing more than three times the expenditure of 1998 levels. When looking at communications costs we’ve seen an increase of another $5.1 million, more than twice the expenditure of 1998 levels. How about government salaries? In 1998 expenditure was $186 million. 2008? It amounted to $329 million or an increase of $143.2 million. Again, massive increases in expenditure over 10 years and what tangible value has the average tax payer gained that we can point to as a result?
Next we could ask where the fiscal responsibility is in ensuring that the public sector isn’t too bloated? Indeed when looking at the number of government workers, the size of government has risen by 20%, or
990 since 1998 and these numbers may not even include consultants and contractors. Taking the amount spent vs. the number of workers in 1998 suggests an average annual salary of some $39 thousand for each government worker. Compare that to 2008 where the average annual salary has skyrocketed to $57 thousand. This represents an increase of some $18 thousand in annual salary over 1998 levels, representing raises of about $1.8 thousand a year. This is quite a hike and it might even seem reasonable until you start asking yourself if every government worker received such raises, or instead just a select few.
This leads us to our next question. If the average salary has gone up, has every government worker benefited? Indeed, if raises have not been evenly distributed, someone in a low bracket may have seen no increase while those in the high brackets may have seen far more than $18 thousand in raises over 1998 levels. A case and point goes to reviewing the situation of our police officers. Next time you wonder about the lack of a police presence while you’re worried about deaths on our roads or a rise in break-ins, ask yourself why police officers haven’t received a raise since 2004 and are like still stuck in a pay dispute. If we’ve seen a rise of $11 thousand in average annual government salaries, shouldn’t our dedicated police officers have seen some of this? To put it more bluntly, if you’re a government worker, have you seen your salary rise $11 thousand annually since 2004, or $18 thousand annually since 1998?
If you’re one of some 40,000 taxpayers (or closer to 30,000 if you rule out non-Bermudian workers), are you at all concerned about our government’s fiscal responsibility? Certainly it is reasonable for them to be fiscally conscious when it comes to advertising budgets and yet, where is that consciousness when it comes to flagrant overspending in other categories? Indeed, just be looking at the categories mentioned above we’ve seen a rise of $153 million spent annually beyond what was spent in 1998. As a tax payer, does this bother you? Perhaps not until you realize that when divided amongst those 40,000 tax payers mentioned above, that amounts to about $3.8 thousand that could have gone in your pocket. Counting out non-Bermudian workers, that is more than $5 thousand. Though should you really care? $3.8 thousand or even $5 thousand is little more than chump change, isn’t it? If not, perhaps it’s time you take a second look at government spending and begin asking what value we’re actually getting in return for our money.