Realigning State Sector

17 April 2016 11:15 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The State sector is undergoing several changes, as the Government attempts to streamline processes in State services and provide better benefits for its employees amidst loop holes with regard to its efficiency and productivity. In a candid interview with the Daily Mirror, Minister of Public Administration and Management Ranjith Madduma Bandara shed some light on issues pertaining to the State sector and several other issues faced by his Ministry. Excerpts:

"Eighty per cent of the country’s debt is coming from those institutions. The reasons behind the loss are mismanagement, fraud, corruption, and politicisation of those institutions. Our Government had to convert them to profits making enterprises. Those institutions had to be maintained from the tax that was imposed on the people. "

Q   How many people are employed in the state sector and what are the benefits they will get from the new government?

There are more than 1.3 million State workers in the State sector and the Government spends Rs. 620 billion on their salaries annually. About Rs.800 billion, including Rs.180 billion, is spent for the pensioners, who retired from the Government sector. 

Rs.800 billion is spent for maintenance of the State sector, while 40 per cent of the State sector is maintained by the Government. State workers have been given Cost of Living allowances and a 20 per cent salary increment by the new Government – nothing had been added to the basic salary of State sector employees since January 01, 2006. 

The present Government has added Rs. 2,500 out of the promised Rs.10,000 as an increment to the minimum basic salary. Other than that, over the next four years another Rs.10,000 will be added, along with the 20 per cent salary increment, which has not been granted by the previous Government. At the end of the next four years the State sector employees’ salaries will be double their current basic salaries. The salary scale would be increased by a ratio of 1:4 between a labourer and an administrative officer at the executive level.

"The present Government has added Rs. 2,500 out of the promised Rs.10,000 as an increment to the minimum basic salary"

Q   How will these benefits trickle down to the State sector employees?

Loan facilities were given to the State sector employees based on their basic salaries by banks and institutions. The basic salary of the State sector employee was very much considered. By issuing a circular, the Government has instructed banks and other institutions to grant loan facilities to the State sector employees considering an accumulation of all the salary increments that were to be included into the basic salary.

Q   In what ways is the Government trying to increase the productivity of the State employees?

The Ministry of Public Administration is now conducting a special programme with the National Productivity Secretariat (NPS) to increase the productivity of the State sector employees. Another programme will be run by the management unit. These programmes will introduce new procedures to increase the productivity of the State sector employees similar to other developed countries. We urge people to lodge complaints to the Ministry of Public Administration, if there were any inefficiency in any State sector, and necessary action will be taken after an inquiry.

"Rs.800 billion is spent for maintenance of the State sector, while 40 per cent of the State sector is maintained by the Government. State workers have been given Cost of Living allowances and a 20 per cent salary increment by the new Government – nothing had been added to the basic salary of State sector employees since January 01, 2006. "

Q   Isn’t it obvious that State sector workers are considered less efficient than the private sector workers?

Yes, it is obvious that the people in the country have an idea that the State sector workers are slower than those in the private sector. We need to clear that notion. To get rid of that type of an idea, it is relevant to absorb new technology to the State sector and to train State sector workers to work accordingly.

"Eighty per cent of the country’s debt is made up of the loans of Ceylon Electricity Board  and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation"

Q   What procedures can be implemented to streamline the way employees obtain their pension payments?

We have instructed the Department of Pensions to inform the relevant institutions to start making individual employee’s pension file details one year before their pension date. As soon as the relevant documents are received at the Department of Pensions, the relevant applicant will get his pension within a week, and they will not be kept waiting.

The Provincial Councils, provincial education sector and provincial health sector have been so far identified as the inefficient sectors, where pensioners get their pensions late. We are putting into action certain steps to increase the efficiency of that process.

Q   What is the progress of the recently introduced contributory pension scheme from the budget proposals for 2016?

The Government introduced a contributory pension scheme for the Government, Semi-Government and the private sector employees in the budget 2016. We are not going to remove the pension scheme but the Government had to pay more attention on paying the pensioners. But we are going to change the procedure of the pensions. Even in developed countries, they are using the contributory pension scheme to pay for their pensioned employees. It is good to introduce the contributory pension scheme even to the private sector as well in the future.

The farmers’ pension schemes, under the previous Government were ineffective but under a national policy in our Yahapalana Government, those were implemented properly. Our Government is very keen on taking strong decisions. There is nothing to worry about the implementation of the new procedures.

"The present Government has added Rs. 2,500 out of the promised Rs.10,000 as an increment to the minimum basic salary. Other than that, over the next four years another Rs.10,000 will be added, along with the 20 per cent salary increment, which has not been granted by the previous Government. At the end of the next four years the State sector employees’ salaries will be double their current basic salaries. The salary scale would be increased by a ratio of 1:4 between a labourer and an administrative officer at the executive level."

Q   Have there been any steps taken to reduce the number of employment positions, in the State sector?

Nothing has been done to limit the appointment of employees to the Government sector and nothing had been done to sabotage the employment of the Government sector. As a result of not holding placement examinations on time, more so by the previous Government, higher rank positions in the State sector have been vacant. Now the Government is planning to make appointments for vacant positions gradually.

Q   During the tenure of the previous Government several institutions were taken over. Is this Government trying to privatise any Government institutions?

I have personally looked at the number of institutions which have been privatised. About 47 institutions had been privatised before the year 1994. 

More than 60 institutions had been privatised after 1994. Most of the privatising had been done during the tenure of the previous Governments. 

As an example the SriLankan Airline, the Electricity Board and the Petroleum Corporation are the institutions operating with a huge loss. 

Eighty per cent of the country’s debt is made up of the loans of those institutions. The reasons behind the loss are mismanagement, fraud, corruption, and politicisation of those institutions. Our Government had to convert them to profits making enterprises. Those institutions had to be maintained from the tax that was imposed on the people. 

The Government is in discussions about converting those Government institutions to Semi-Government or Private.

"But this is not divided reasonably in the country. Because of this situation the government has targeted bringing the cost of living to over US$10,000 within ten years. To come to that target the Government should increase production in agriculture, technological advances and education in the country. Our Government has to make very difficult decisions. If the Government makes decisions in the hope of winning the favour of people and gain popularity among them, the country will again fall down as what happened to the previous Government."

Q   Will there be any increment of the basic salary of the State sector employment?

About Rs. 23,000 is being paid as the basic salary, which is the lowest income, after adding the Rs.10,000 salary increment and the cost of living allowance. The per capita income is still US $3800. 
But this is not divided reasonably in the country. Because of this situation the government has targeted bringing the cost of living to over US$10,000 within ten years. To come to that target the Government should increase production in agriculture, technological advances and education in the country. Our Government has to make very difficult decisions. If the Government makes decisions in the hope of winning the favour of people and gain popularity among them, the country will again fall down as what happened to the previous Government.

Q   What will happen to the Provincial Council elections?

Provincial Council (PC) elections are unlikely this year, because the delimitation of the wards in all the districts has not yet been completed. 

The delimitation process is near completion in about six districts. It took about three months. For example the work in the Gampaha District is about 99 per cent complete. In such a situation the holding of PC elections this year is very unlikely. We are a Government that likes to face elections. 

"The Government introduced a contributory pension scheme for the Government, Semi-Government and the private sector employees in the budget 2016. We are not going to remove the pension scheme but the Government had to pay more attention on paying the pensioners. But we are going to change the procedure of the pensions. Even in developed countries, they are using the contributory pension scheme to pay for their pensioned employees."

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