The latest Pay Research Bureau (PRB) is a shame. While the public generally acknowledges the role of trade unions to be critical and unsatisfied, this time, the majority of civil servants are unhappy. It is hence not exaggerated to claim that such downbeat atmosphere and general frustration may have an impact on the socioeconomic and political landscape in the years to come.
When Navin Ramgoolam came back to power in 2005, one of his first major statements, together with Nita Deerpalsing, was that public sector needed a fresh start and that major changes would be brought. Alas, 7 years later, it is more or less the same system that prevails. A system largely dominated by administrative cadres like permanent secretaries (PS), principal assistant secretaries (PAS) and senior chief executives (SCE), which creates many kinds of abuses at personal level and a lack of efficiency and productivity at work.
Contrary to what the PRB director has stated to the media, in response to criticism from trade unionists, the PRB 2012 has in fact “faire plaisir” to the civil servants at the upper echelon of government, and created a gigantic gap that threatens the very foundation of a more just and equal society. A PS was earning Rs 52,000 onwards pre-PRB 2008. Now he/she will earn Rs 114,000+. Hence in less than 10 years, the salary of the top cadres of the civil service has more than doubled.
The trend in the developed world, in particular Western countries severely hit by the successive economic crises, and even in the developing world, has been to try to bridge the gap between the higher and lower salary scales in the public service. But in Mauritius, it is the contrary. And make no mistake, the frustration will keep on increasing and a time bomb has started to click-clock.
In the current system of the civil service in Mauritius, administrative cadres are at the helm of a ministry, a department or head some specific tasks and are the “supervising officers” per se of such units, with the exception of the financial secretary and the secretary for foreign affairs, who are the no.1 of their Ministries. , has worked well in the 1980s and 1990s, especially after our transition from colonial times, but now it needs an urgent change.
Bureaucracy keeps on getting heavier because of the PS, PAS and other AS. Ministries and departments have directors, usually people qualified in specific sectors related to the Ministry where they work and who have moved upwards down the years and decades. Administrative cadres only duplicate their duties and often there are deadlocks, and a PS or PAS will try to get the upper hand. There is thus a total waste of time, resources, and money. Let us not forget that the same administrative cadres will normally lobby to sit on several parastatal boards and other departmental committees where they will earn more allowances.
Another decadent practice over the years has been the frequent missions abroad or training abroad that administrative cadres have shared among themselves. Normally, friendly donor countries offer several sponsored missions and short-term training courses to civil servants, in particular technical cadres working in specific fields…
Hence, instead of wasting time discussing irrelevant and repetitive schemes about electoral reforms, Ramgoolam and his Government should work quickly towards a true reform and modernizing of the Civil Service. It is time to put a halt to the ever-increasing influence and power of administrative cadres in all ministerial affairs and policy-making, and to stop creating such new posts. There are many civil servants, young and old, with relevant skills, qualifications and enthusiasm, who can contribute to take management roles and help rendering the whole system more coherent, transparent and dynamic…
Why has PRB 2013 been so generous towards the top jobs, administrative cadres, the judiciary and the medical sector? Is it because there are vested interests?
Let us now look at the 'small gifts' in the package like the 4% interest-loans for car purchase to the benefit of certain civil servants. PRB 2012 talks about cars as symbols of power and prestige. This is not entirely true. More Mauritians need cars because of locomotion and because it confers a certain degree of comfort compared to out-of-date, overcrowded and badly serviced buses in our country.
Now, Ramgoolam came up with his famous brand of Maurice Ile Durable (MID) concept some 5 years ago. He knows our roads are badly saturated and no provisions were made to cater for the ever-increasing flow of vehicles in Mauritius. Minister Bachoo keeps building new roads and has promised to look seriously at the Light Rail Transit (LRT) / “Metro Léger” project.
Now PRB 2013 comes up with gifts and encouragement to civil servants to invest in more cars (more luxury ones for the top civil servants) and fails completely to come up with creative ideas about how to tackle transport problems for civil servants, especially those who are expected to take the bus or come by their own means to the office before 9am. Wouldn't it have made sense to devise a plan that sees each Ministry invest in the purchase of coaches/buses, vans or even pool-cars to transport public officers to their offices or other assignments? This would have lessened the daily traffic jam, lessened the burden and stress on the public workers and rationalized the means of transportation of civil servants, while discouraging them to use personal cars to come to office.
Navin, please stop this farce as soon as possible. The PRB 2013 severely lacks innovative ideas, creativity, far-sightedness and vision, long-term planning; no respect for MID, and no respect for equity and equal opportunities.