RETIREMENT is a phase of life that most look to with mixed feelings. The government decision not to give extensions to public servants will see a mass exodus of around 12,000 individuals who have spent the best years of their life serving the State. The questions that remains is how efficient will their replacements be?
Traditionally Sri Lanka has always maintained a large public service and repeated efforts to reduce that number has resulted in mixed political and social outcomes. Most people agree that public servants need to be more efficient and allowed to work in an environment that would give them the capacity to provide services to the people. Low salaries, little recognition and political interference have resulted in most public servants having little choice but to resort to chicanery in order to consolidate their careers.
In this environment fast tracking development in Sri Lanka has to face a strong hurdle in the form of dealing with bureaucracy. Investors, particularly the foreign kind, do not take kindly to red tape tangles and while public servants have to ensure that due processes are followed they must also work towards developing the country by being more professional. Present estimates indicate that 12, 000 public servants across the length and breadth of the service will be retired but if a more competent tier does not fill their shoes then the same problems will continue.
There is around one public servant for every 20 people in Sri Lanka; this hefty number can only be justified if they take the opportunity to give economic benefits to the people. Trimming the State sector does not seem to be practical even though the political atmosphere might be more conducive to this at present. This means that we literally have to make the best of what we’ve got and Sri Lanka does have a large number of well qualified people in the public service ranks. Tragically the negative cycle never seems to get broken.
Political appointments have to stop. Interference at that level only results in people preferring to ‘suck up’ to the powers that be rather than proving themselves through sheer hard work. If rewards are given only to those who have earned them by doing their job properly then development would be much easier to come by. Having honest and trustworthy people at the helm would assure that the investments that bring sustainable development to the people would be implemented and cutbacks and commissions would be reduced significantly.
These are the points that the new appointees have to consider. Many of the 12, 000 who will get promotions will be reaching the last leg of their careers. They have to ask themselves some tough questions as to what sort of legacy they want to leave behind. In the final swansong of their careers do they want to make a change and at least clear their conscience with the knowledge that they tried their best? It is never too late to learn and the changing process can be reflected on the entire country.
Do they want to be known as soldiers in an army that trudged listlessly onwards or a well-knit unit that marched towards a goal that would make the lives of millions of people better? The choice is their’s and time is running out.