IDEA FOR GROWTH: Efficient Public Service

It is no secret that Salaries and Wages is the fattest head in our country’s recurrent expenditures.  It is also no secret or rocket science that if we continue to spend more than we earn, we would inevitably burrow a hole of debt that we may never live to fill.     Given the amount of our revenues going to Salaries and Wages; any effort at seeking to reduce recurrent expenditures would obviously target Salaries and Wages.  The prevailing wisdom is that a reduction in Salaries and Wages would create the much needed budgetary surplus that would help reduce overall debt or finance other expenditures.
So, what options are available to us?  What can the Director of Finance do about the situation?  Can we achieve the overarching goal of reducing debt and the budgetary deficit without reducing or freezing Salaries and Wages?  We need recurrent expenditures to fall below recurrent revenues.  That is the goal!  While a wage freeze or reduction in Salaries and Wages can achieve that goal; it is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to cause recurrent revenues to overtop recurrent expenditures as far as possible.
Let’s examine some plausible options.  One, we can retrench some workers so that the wage bill can fall low enough to create the surplus.  Two, we can pay the public servants less or freeze their wages.  Three, provides the option to implement select programs and or the facilitation of investments that would have the net effort of increasing revenues.  Four, but not necessarily last, is the option to make the public service more productive.  In that way, a dollar spent on salaries and wages will generate more revenue than currently obtains thus pushing revenues further away from expenditures into the required green zone.  “How do you propose to make the Public Service more efficient?” you ask.
Foremost, we need to be clear about the role of government.  From what I was taught government was invented for the dual purpose of facilitating prosperity for all and the provision of security (avoidance of anarchy, poverty, wars etc).  Government must know what its business is and what it’s not.  This takes us to Step One in making the service more productive.  Streamline the number of Ministries down to a permanent set of necessary ministries which would mean fewer Ministers and Permanent Secretaries.  From our vantage point six (6) ministries divided into the requisite numbers of departments; are sufficient to do the work of government: Environment, Physical Planning, Housing, Food and agriculture—Everything to do with the management of the environment and its use for food, clothing and shelter (Housing, fisheries, physical planning, agriculture, etc).  Human services, education and Resource Development everything to do with the management and maintenance of our human resources (sports, education, gender relations, health etc).  Finance, economic Development and commerce —everything to do with
the preservation and
increase of the wealth of the state and its citizens (commerce, finance, economic affairs, domestic trade).   National Security and Justice—everything to do with the protection of human rights, civil liberties and adherence to the law.  Transport, Communications, Energy and Technology—everything to do with the country’s access to emerging technologies and the infrastructures that support them (telecommunication, research and development, roads, transport roads, infrastructure etc).   International Relations, Tourism and Trade—Everything to do with the state’s business with the rest of the world.  Having a set of permanent ministries, codified in the constitution; will save the country thousands of dollars in creating new offices, letterheads, phone numbers etc each time that there is a change in administration.
Secondly, perform a process review of all of the processes associated with all of the services provided by government under each of the proposed new ministries with the view to identifying those that are amenable to streamlining and/or automation.  In addition to streamlining and automating, an exercise would need to be conducted to better align officers’ qualification/training/aspirations with their positions in the service.
What is an officer with a first and second degree doing dispensing drugs at Health Centres?  That person should be somewhere up the ladders in some management position where he can do justice to his/her qualifications.
Thirdly, privatize as many alternating processes as possible along every service delivery line of government.  This suggestion is based on the observation that the most efficient departments of government are those that interface directly with the general public or a private sector concern. Here is an example of what we are suggesting.  If a particular service is produced from the collaboration of three government departments in a serial fashion; then privatize the department performing the second set of processes.          It therefore starts with government then moves to the private concern and back to the government.  The presence of that private sector concern along that service delivery line will induce a ‘pull’ from, and a ‘push’ to the government departments with which it interfaces.  If we go that way, it is expected that the officers of the department to be privatized would be given the first option to invest in the privatization fo the department.
Fourthly, deploy officers who would have been made redundant by the automation and streamlining processes to high customer service departments where there are high volumes of one on one interaction with the general public such as the civil status registry, customs, inland revenue, the schools, hospitals etc to ensure that our citizens are serviced as quick as possible by their government.
The faster that you are able to clear your queues is the more money that would be able to bring in over a fixed space of time.  We are not advocating retrenchment here.  We understand the importance of having large numbers of permanent income earners in generating business activity and commence.
Finally, develop a formula to determine the pay increases due to public servants (including the Ministers of government) based on agreed performance and economic indicators.   In that way, public servants and ministers of government would benefit when the country is doing well and would know what to do to get things better if the contrary is to obtain.  This should also bring an
end the wanton conflicts between government and public servants’ over wage increases as both parties would be looking to the same indicators for their salary increases—except if Ministers don’t like salary increases.

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