Monday, February 18, 2019 | ePaper

Commentary

Not counting on people's vote govt is too generous to public servants

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Editorial Desk :
A secretary-level committee formed in May 2017 to review the pay scale finalised the recommendations that would allow the government to introduce salary hike for the public officers and employees once in a year instead of every five years in the previous system. At present, about two million public officials and employees are receiving salaries as per the 8th pay scale introduced in 2016 that replaced the seventh pay scale approved in 2010.
The government had decided to provide medical and festival allowances to the spouse and disabled children of retired civil servants, after their death, even if they have withdrawn 100% of their pension. As per the decision, they are getting the benefits from February 1, 2016.
According to the Finance Division's notification, the widow or widower and disabled children of the employees will get life-long medical treatment and two festival allowances annually. The elderly husband will receive a monthly medical allowance and two festival allowances annually for a maximum of 15 years from the date of the pension withdrawal, the notification said.
Even those who have retired long ago were also pleased by additional pension benefits. This is most unusual only shows how bold the government has become in using public money for creating a bunch of submissive public servants.  
Finance division has allocated Tk 53,833 core in the current fiscal for the payment of salaries and allowances from Tk 49,751 crore in 2016-17. It has also calculated 20 percent pay rise annually following introduction of the automatic salary adjustment formula against the backdrop of 17 percent rise in the size of the national budget in recent years. The last national pay commission headed by former Bangladesh Bank governor Mohammad Farashuddin recommended increasing salaries by 5 to 8 per cent each year.
Would it be acceptable that the budget would have to increase spending by 20 percent annually just to keep the incomes of civil servants in line with inflation? This is in a time when the private investment to GDP ratio is 23 percent. To raise it by 1 percentage point, Tk 25,000 crore needs to be invested in a year. But the government refuses to cut corporate tax rates by less than 2.5 percent, making Bangladesh corporate tax rates one of the highest in the world -- and well below our regional neighbours average.
We can use the example of robbing Peter to pay Paul to illustrate this -- but in this case robbing Peter will neither increase our capacity for growth or for increased levels of employment, both of which we desperately need. It is the private sector which is the main engine for economic growth.
Meanwhile the government has imposed new taxes on E-commerce, small flats, and even ride sharing services. Has it done anything to improve private sector salaries -- unlike the public sector, private sector workers are dependent upon the goodwill of their corporate bosses to get salary increases. Why should roughly 2 million out of our total labour force of over 60 million get inflation indexed pensions -- what was the fault of the rest?
While the middle class are squeezed the banks are given leeway to go on lending money to out robber barons -- who are quite incapable of creating sustained levels of employment anywhere. Meanwhile our spending on healthcare and education are nowhere close enough to providing quality services -- this is essential as a lot of our high and middle end management are people from other SAARC countries who are working and enjoying high salaries in our country.
Over 60 percent of our deficit is financed through national savings -- no wonder that the interest payments are the fourth highest allocations in our recent budgets. If we were creating quality infrastructure it is one thing -- but we are messing up simple projects like the Bus Rapid Transit by inserting flyovers -- which will help the tiny rich percentage who own cars, while not giving a damn about those who use buses. This is not infrastructural development for the masses -- it is infrastructural development for a small elite class. Just like the salaries indexed to inflation -- it will help only a tiny few. This can't be the way to economically manage a nation.

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