Touria Prayag's Blog

More bang for our buck? Par Touria Prayag 23 Mai 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on September 15, 2013

“THESE THOUGHTS ARE PERHAPS THE TRIUMPH OF HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE.”

 

If the civil servants of this country have popped open the champagne, I sincerely hope they enjoy it. Their disgruntled reaction to the previous PRB report led to the commissioning of a new one which has dished out even more money and along with it created a general satisfaction among almost all government employees. After each PRB, these privileged men and women see their salaries galloping ahead of inflation and this is treated as if it were an immutable law of nature. So, they deserve the champagne and they should drink to the health of those of us who do not have anything like the PRB and who have to fork out something like Rs9,000 every year to keep public sector employees happy. Not that we begrudge them that. Far from it. Previously, the increases brought about by the PRB were concentrated mainly at the top rungs of the ladder in every area of public life. The drones and middle managers suffered from the squeeze while the cosseted senior technocrats did very well thank you. The report on errors, omissions and anomalies seems to have corrected that.

 

However, if the PRB has become part of the way Mauritius governs itself to keep its resources in the public sector, when it comes to asking for the delivery of the service being generously paid for, it remains very shy. While our public sector has some very able and hard-working people, it equally has a lot of seat-warmers who work very little and compete for the highest levels of absenteeism. The systematic over-rewarding has done little to change that and there is no sign that that will stop any time soon.

 

No pay increase has ever been accompanied by the legitimate question: “Have our public servants actually made public life more efficient and effective since their last increase?” Ask no questions, hear no lies.

 

The most significant change in the errors, omissions and anomalies report this year must be the one about aligning primary school teachers with their secondary school counterparts. A most welcome move as – we have always argued – the quality of our education will improve only once we start placing value on the work our teachers do – particularly in the formative years of our children’s lives. Having said that, however, one is entitled to ask whether these teachers – now that they are better paid and generously rewarded – will give up inflicting private tuition on our primary school children. If they will participate in the Enhancement Programme in a more meaningful way than they have until now. If they will devote more energy to running activities for the benefit of the children of this nation. If they will finally be public spirited workers concerned with the children’s long-term interest rather than being performance managers peddling a short-term fi x for heavily emphasised exams.

 

If these questions – in appearance of a moral nature – are asked by each public servant who has finished his glass of champagne, then nothing is lost. But these thoughts are perhaps the triumph of hope over experience.

 

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