Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and State Minister Eran Wickramaratne.
Pic by Damitha Wickremesinghe
By Lahiru Pothmulla
The budget proposal to give an increment of Rs.2, 500 to State sector employees is an interim measure, State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne said yesterday.
The State Minister said this in response to a question raised during a news briefing led by Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, held at the Ministry to educate on budget proposals.
When asked why taxpayers had to pay more for the salary increase of employees of the public sector which is deemed inefficient, Wickramaratne said this issue was complex which has no easy answer.
He said the brightest and the best from the local education system enter the public sector.
“When you take a look at the broader market, these public sector employees are underpaid for their contribution and innovation. From one side we have that issue and therefore, public sector salaries must rise. We also don’t hesitate to say that there are issues about the efficiency in the public sector. That’s the public perception. That needs to be addressed. This cannot be done overnight and it would probably be one of the reforms we will be dong in the future,” he stressed.
When asked if the government could increase the salary of public employees based on their merits instead of across the board, he said a proper system needs to be in place to do this.
“If it’s based on merit, you need a system to be in place. It is not something that we can do overnight because you will need indicators. Unless there is a system in place, it will be unjust. The President appointed a Commission to look into anomalies in the public sector, and it made recommendations. So the Rs.2,500 increase to the public sector is an interim measure.” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the salaries of public sector employees had increased exponentially since 2015.
“The salary of an office assistant was Rs.11,730 in 2015 when we took over the government and it has increased to Rs.21,740 today. A teacher’s salary had increased to Rs.29,000 from Rs.16,000 while a ministry secretary’s salary had increased to Rs.88,000 from Rs.48,000 in 2015,” he said.