Sunday, January 20, 2019 | ePaper

Increasing living cost: Govt busy with mega projects

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WHILE the cost of living for millions of Dhaka residents keeps going higher with little to no change in their income, the situation is not as bleak for many. The lucky few are government staff who, with the full implementation of the eighth national pay scale, saw their salaries go up drastically. And it is because of this that total expenditure in the first quarter of FY2016-17 was 15.5 percent higher than a year earlier.

It is also because of this that there was a huge jump in non-development spending- up 19.35 percent to Tk 35,325 crore in the first quarter of FY2016-17 whereas only a year earlier non-development spending was 0.32 percent less than the year before that. Last year, it was also reported that the government had doubled pay for local government representatives in city corporations, municipalities, and councils for districts, upazilas and unions.

And it is not just salaries but allowances as well. The Ministry of Public Administration has proposed that high-level government officials receive Tk50,000 as a one-time allowance to purchase mobile handsets. The proposal is part of the draft for the Government Telephone and Internet Guideline 2017. The phone and internet bills of ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers will be borne by their respective ministry.

In addition, the new guideline sees the mobile phone allowance increase for public servants. From the highest officials in the administration to the thana executive officers, everyone's phone and internet bills will be paid by the government. .Joint secretaries and above will get Tk2,500 for mobile phones and internet. Deputy secretaries and above will get Tk1,000 for mobile phones and internet.

While economic theory dictates that higher wages will lead to greater efficiencies-can it truly root our bribery, which happens more due to greed than due to need. Of course it would eliminate those who did it out of need, but it would be very difficult to remove the greed portion. Most public servants don't remember automatically that their salaries are coming out of taxpayers' pockets-if they did most of them would be models of decorum.
Instead we see the opposite---a woman giving birth in a parking area because she could not pay bribes, a man beaten up and harassed by airport police simply for being an expatriate labourer. Clearly these things are not going to stop easily. Uniquely for Bangladesh, the cost of corruption adds to inflation as it has seeped into every aspect of our lives. Inflation in 2017 went up by an alarming 8.44 percentage points from 2016. Besides, house rent soared by 8.14 percent and electricity by 6.44 percent in 2017 from that a year ago. Instead of tackling these government is adding to it by increasing salaries-and that too selectively. But merely increasing salaries will do nothing to improve efficiency or keep the administration in toe with the government's dictum in most things. It's a colossal expenditure of public funds with little real returns.


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