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EDITORIAL: Public service needs greater efficiency

marciadottin, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Public service  needs greater  efficiency

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THE FLURRY OF ACTIVITY surrounding Government’s proposal to cut over 3 000 employees from the public service suggests it is going to have considerable difficulty in implementing this policy.
It is well known that the country is facing a fiscal crisis and for too long Government has dithered and refused to reduce its expenditure, which has been expanding at a giddy pace for the past five years.
The solution is going to be painful for all of us, so we might as well get down to work. There is need for greater efficiency in the public service and greater accountability as is stated by Accountant General on a yearly basis.
For starters, the statutory corporations and some ministries must be revamped with haste. Take for instance, the Ministry of Transport and Works. In the early 1960s and 1970s, this ministry undertook all of the road building and repair work in the country. Today, this ministry does absolutely no road building and very little road repair, yet it has a much larger complement of employees than when it did all the road construction work. There is also considerable wastage as expensive machinery in that ministry lie idle.
Then there is the Ministry as Housing and Rural Development. This ministry is responsible for housing and rural development and the tenantry road programme. It was supposed to convey most of the older housing units to tenants who had paid rents for over 20 years.
This ministry no longer appears to build houses or housing estates as it did in the early 1970s, yet it has a larger number of maintenance staff than when its main activity was construction of houses.
What is worse, as we understand it, is that there is little money available for the tenantry road programme, yet the salaries paid to staff on a monthly basis far exceed the funds available for road programmes or home repairs for the “vulnerable in society”. This state of affairs continues unabated.
The situation at the Transport Board is even more distressing. Government has had to borrow funds every month for operations at the board. It means that this statutory corporation is haemorrhaging and cannot even pay its repair bills. Yet there has been no known effort to rationalize this entity.
This is the curse of public ownership of assets which is the mantra of the new political aspirants. It is now well known that when assets are publicly owned, there are no incentives to encourage wise stewardship.
While private property creates incentives for conservation and responsible use, public ownership encourages irresponsibility and waste.
If the public owns an asset, people act as if no one owns it. Consequently, no one really takes care of it. Public ownership encourages neglect and mismanagement.
From the beginning of history, sincere reformers as well as demagogues have sought to abolish or at least alleviate poverty through state action. In most cases their proposed remedies have only served to make the problem worse.