PM’s warning against graft by civil servants

Publish: 3:42 PM, January 18, 2019 | Update: 3:42:PM, January 18, 2019

Prime Minister (PM) in a meeting at the Civil Administration Ministry on Thursday signaled what the future beholds for our civil servants if they should fail to deliver from now on as per people’s expectations. In fact, in her speech she bluntly underlined what would be the main ruling quality of her administration in the next five years. She minced no words while addressing the gathering when she said salaries and perks of civil servants have been very sub substantially raised in the last five years. So, why should countrymen not get the expected improved performance from civil servants. Surely they can no more complain they are under motivated specially in the financial sense.
Indeed, the national pay scales involving the salaries of government employees working in the ministries and departments, plus the ones serving in autonomous organizations, were revised at an unprecedented rate in the last nine years. The substantial rise coming gradually after a long time and in the backdrop of rising inflation and costs of living would be justified on the face of it. The hikes were indeed well received by the public sector employees. But it cannot be said that these increases in monetary compensation would create the grounds for all round contentment in the country for the gains would not accrue to employees engaged in the vast private sector.
The civil servants who number a little over 0.1 million persons are a small section of the total workforce in the country. But every time their salaries went up, it was noted that a spurt in the prices of essential goods followed with the sellers explaining that the higher purchasing power and demand created from salary hikes of government’s employees gave justification for such raising of prices on their part. But the rise in the prices of essential goods also affected the very great number of those in the workforce who were not benefited in any way by rise in their purchasing power or could not negotiate such increases of salaries or wages received by them. Thus, they became the sufferers from attempts to give greater payments to government employees .
The ex-finance minister while declaring the higher salary scales-progressively– expressed the hope that such misfortunes would not hit the ones in the private sector. He thought that production and supply of essential goods in the market were quite ample and unhindered. Therefore, there would be no scope for the sellers to increase prices and, therefore, the government employees would likely enjoy their upcoming financial gains and private sector employees would not come under a new spell of price pressure.
The consumers in general would like to keep their faith in the minister’s statements. But they knew it might not be realistic also to have such confidence in the backdrop of their past experiences in this regard. As it is, prices and charges of goods and services respectively rise in Bangladesh without any rational or economic reasons. Thus, as the sellers and providers of goods and services were provided with the evidence that a section of the consumers had acquired a hefty rise in their earnings, the formerresorted to their familiar behavior. Only firm government monitoring of the price situation and taking appropriate actions in relation to the same, pursuing policies to help the keeping of production of foodstuffs and other essentials on the high side and also facilitating adequate and timely import of these essentials, were needed to create conditions for keeping the price lines stable.
Besides, the government is expected to be ready and capable to play the role of the honest broker or facilitator in different areas of the private sector, to get salaries and other benefits to workers and employees raised. This is imperative for workers and employees in general in the country to be not bypassed from upward readjustment of their financial compensation like their counterparts in the public sector. But these tasks will have to be approached very carefully taking into consideration the capabilities of the private sector employers to pay higher amounts. At any rate, there should not be any diktats issued to the private sector in these matters.
But the most important thing is the government employees should find satisfaction from their raised earnings. They should now be motivated to do their work with enthusiasm and honesty. Government will have to keep a watch mounted to ensure that the same would happen. Otherwise, there would be hardly any justification for paying the higher salaries and benefits. The salary hikes need to be followed by proper reforms in the government’s bureaucracy to this end.
As it is, there are hardly credible signs available that higher salaries and perks have generally and notably motivated our civil servants to work and behave to give convincing proof that they are ready to act relatively incorruptibly and efficiently. They are still found largely clinging on to their old habits of taking bribes and harassing people with their delaying tactics and demands. We, therefore, come to the conclusion that the solution of higher salaries to achieve better behavior of civil servants is too simplistic in the Bangladesh context. The civil servants need to be under a very stern ‘accountability’ structure linking non termination of their jobs with properly observing a code of conduct that would compel them not to take bribes and serve sincerely to the best of their abilities while in in interaction with members of the public. Government deserves some commendation for working to increase the monetary benefits of civil servants. But such increased pay and perks will be justified only on government ensuring that the civil servants would be obliged to discharge their duties at least commensurate to their raised monetary and other compensations.