Home / FT View/ Politics and public service

Politics and public service


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00


As elections inch closer, the appointment of public employees has resulted in headlines. Recently a school in Kurunegala received a driver even though there was no vehicle for him to drive, and as the principal could not assign other duties the employee was lucky enough to get a free salary. Hilarity aside, such oversight undermines the entire service and wastes resources that could be better used in different sectors.    

Sri Lanka’s state and state-owned enterprise workers, excluding the military, grew a whopping 30% to 1.1 million from 2006 to 2016, according to a survey by the Census and Statistics Department released earlier this year. The survey, which includes the Central Government, Provincial Government, statutory bodies and state enterprises, showed that not only is the public sector inflated, but it often made recruitments to areas of little use to the people.  

The Census Department report said it did not include the three services but included workers in the Ministry of Defence. According to 2015 data released by the Finance Ministry, Sri Lanka had 272,000 in various branches of the military and 84,000 policemen. Assuming the numbers were broadly unchanged, Sri Lanka could have a total public sector burden of 1,474,000 state workers compared to 1,316,863 (Finance Ministry 2015) or 1,365,820 (Central Bank 2015), indicating that the issue has not abated under the present Government. 

Finance Ministry data showed that 88,000 so-called ‘Development Officers’ had been recruited to the state service between 2005 and 2015 but only managed 11,000 medical officers, 33,000 nurses and 3,579 midwives. 

Politically-driven recruitment is clearly a major problem within the public service and continues to be a fiscal liability, especially since each year around 30,000 workers become pensioners. According to Finance Ministry data, the number of pensioners grew from 430,153 in 2006 to 564,472 in 2015, increasing the burden on workers.  

There are also questions about their qualifications as about 17.8% of state workers or 196,128 have not passed their Ordinary Level examination. Despite successive Governments recruiting enthusiastically, there are no scientific studies to evaluate the need for and productivity of these public servants. 

Almost all Sri Lankan governments have tended to be proud to proclaim that they have increased public services and employment therein, despite the fact that this was contributing to a fundamentally-flawed fiscal framework, which is now becoming increasingly unaffordable. 

Economists have argued that when successive governments were unwilling or unable to introduce economic reforms that would increase private sector job creation they found the public sector to be a convenient employment creation agency. 

However, the macroeconomic instability arising from the current fiscal framework calls for a radical rethink of the traditional approach to the Government being the employer of first resort. No program of public service restructuring will be sustainable in this country unless it is supplemented by a package of other reforms that generates rapid expansion of private sector activity. 

In a country with a limited population, freeing up public sector workers might be the best recruitment tool for the private sector. It is also one of the best ways to control public expenditure and shore up fiscal consolidation.


Share This Article


DISCLAIMER:

1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.

COMMENTS

Today's Columnists

Tamil actor Kamal Haasan stars in new role as political leader

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Srinivasan Kamal Haasan is one of India’s foremost film actors. Known popularly as Kamal, the talented and versatile thespian has not only excelled as an actor onscreen, but has successfully engaged in other cinematic spheres too. The multi-faceted


Yameen’s economic offensive to counter political adversity ahead of presidential poll

Saturday, 24 February 2018

The embattled Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen, who is facing intense political opposition both in and out of the country, hopes to win the September, 2018 presidential election using a combination of political belligerence and a strong economic pr


In the end, there was nothing

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Much more than a storm in a tea cup! To a non-discerning person, it all seemed like the final battle of the counter revolution. President Sirisena was up in smoke trying to oust Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for no articulated reason. He asked


Shouldn’t Govt. prevent parliamentary system from decay and destruction?

Friday, 23 February 2018

The wrong people teach us the best lessons. As a clever nation, we had always used our ballot and chased the wrong people


Columnists More