Rationalisation of state sector NEED OF THE HOUR

1 October 2013 04:58 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A Commission of Enquiry that was appointed by the then government headed by the late President Premadasa in 1990, following the second JVP-led youth uprising came to the conclusion that among other things, the allocation of government jobs on the basis of political patronage led to a deep sense of injustice among youth looking for secure government jobs. Given the fact that the vast majority of youth continued to aspire for government jobs, a return to such a practice could only lead to more frustration among already restless youth. Since government jobs are scarce, the competition for such positions is severe. When these jobs are allocated on the basis of political loyalty and personal connections, those left out are more than likely to become disillusioned and frustrated.

Appointment of persons to government jobs with little or no attention being paid to merit has other implications as well. Firstly, such politically motivated appointments can adversely affect the institutions that accommodate these recruits. Secondly, the continuation of such a practice over a long period of time could create the impression that what is necessary is not to pursue professional excellence but to cultivate political connections to the powers that be. This latter tendency can lead to a new pragmatism devoid of any higher values or moral principles. Further, this would lead to a deterioration of the institutions themselves.

The practice of recruiting various government functionaries on the basis of competitive examinations goes back several decades, even before the 1971 JVP uprising. Those who had educational qualifications could sit for these examinations. Those who performed well were recruited to various positions at different levels within the state bureaucracy. However, successive governments over time have deviated from this practice to varying extents.  Today, we have reached a situation where many persons are appointed to various state sector jobs mostly on the basis of political loyalty.



" The Samurdhi Authority has thousands of functionaries to manage the poverty alleviation programme but the beneficiaries get only a pittance at the end of each month - not enough to feed a family for even three days, let alone meeting the other needs of poor families  "






It is true that many people have adapted to this new situation. There is no dearth of young people who go behind politicians looking for various opportunities including government jobs. The politicians in turn have accommodated them in various ways. Recruiting them for often non-existent government jobs is one of these ways.

These recruits often become parasitic and contribute little to their respective institutions.



" The continuation of such a practice over a long period of time could create the impression that what is necessary is not to pursue professional excellence but to cultivate political connections to the powers that be "







The unsustainable expansion of the state sector in recent years has already become counterproductive. Increasing numbers have contributed little to the quality of services that various state institutions provide. Today, there are over 235,000 teachers in the public education system. Yet, most parents spend thousands of rupees to take their children around to give them private tuition. This clearly points to the perceived inadequacy of instruction within the public school system. The Samurdhi Authority has thousands of functionaries to manage the poverty alleviation programme but the beneficiaries get only a pittance at the end of each month - not enough to feed a family for even three days, let alone meeting the other needs of poor families.



" While there are many measures that need to be taken, a key measure is to ensure that the recruitment of personnel takes place entirely on the basis of merit. Yet, this is easier said than done because political leaders bent on using public funds to their own advantage are unlikely to give up the practice "



The need of the hour is some form of rationalisation of the state sector. While there are many measures that need to be taken, a key measure is to ensure that the recruitment of personnel takes place entirely on the basis of merit. Yet, this is easier said than done because political leaders bent on using public funds to their own advantage are unlikely to give up the practice. This is particularly so when they realise that public opinion can be shaped in their favour in spite of many negative features of the political system such as widespread corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, political favoritism, wasteful public expenditure, etc. In such a context, politicians do no longer need to occupy high moral ground to mobilise popular support. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that social justice matters in modern civilised societies, even when it does not lead to violent protests. It is also important to recognise the importance of merit and professional competencies in a society that strives to achieve a higher level of development leading to a higher standard of living for its members. There are many living examples of such societies. One only has to look around. The question is whether we want to follow such examples.
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