Service charge

First world status cannot be achieved without an effective civil service

Is there a correlation between the salary received and the quality of work performance?

It is a truism that any highly effective government must be underpinned by a high level bureaucracy or civil service. The civil service is the backbone of government and should ensure the effective implementation of government policies and programs, with little or no interference or interference from the political leadership.

As an important cog in the machinery of governance, it goes without saying that where there is a lame or lethargic public service, there will be a weak government, poor service delivery to the people, and therefore, a frustrated public.

The political manipulation of the civil service in Jamaica is legendary. To accelerate their agendas, successive administrations placed political operatives at the head of important statutory bodies and other government entities. This is largely done to ensure jobs for political hacks, but also to ensure that the party’s imprint on government agendas remains indelible.

It is no secret that survivors in key government positions, whose party is no longer in power, are known to be, or at least have been accused of being, saboteurs of government programs. It’s not as easy to dislodge them from their perch as many think. Their tentacles around civil service power are often stronger and more pervasive than one can easily see.

In the government compensation reform undertaken by the current government, one cannot be naive to assume that this embedded culture is something that will soon disappear.

To have a competent civil service, it is not enough to simply increase the wages of workers, however important that may be in the scheme of things. Much thought should be given to the continuous training of civil servants so that they can become competent in the functions they perform. I disagree with the argument that low pay must necessarily be a recipe for poor or good performance. We know people who receive high salaries and yet their performance in their jobs leaves much to be desired. There is no correlation between performance and the level of salary that is earned.

The public service is the backbone of government.

So while I sympathize with some of my readers that low pay can lead to lower morale in the workplace, I will not back down from the position that any increase in pay must be accompanied by productivity increased. And know that productivity isn’t just about training to improve your skills and skill level. It’s about the attitude we bring to the tasks we do; the level of commitment we make to these tasks; and a sense of doing one’s best to serve the Jamaican people who are the ultimate employer of public servants.

A bad attitude at work will remain bad no matter how well paid you are. A person who is expert at watching the clock will not stop doing it because you give him a raise in his salary. A lethargic person will not revive quickly because you increase their salary. He’ll believe he deserves it anyway and won’t see any compelling reason to up his game.

It should be clearly in the minds of public servants that they serve the Jamaican people, not the politicians. If they are to demonstrate dignity in the work they do, public satisfaction must be their ultimate motivation and goal, and as such they must campaign for the resources and means to achieve this. goal.

A case in point. I recently visited the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) office in Mandeville to pick up a renewed passport. When I arrived, I encountered a long queue in the hallway of the square where the office is. People seemed obviously frustrated to have to queue with no indication as to whether their purpose would be served. Those in line got in the way of others who wanted to go about their business but had to push their way through disgruntled people standing in the way. Come on, Dr. Horace Chang. Is this the best you can do for harassed taxpayers?

I did a quick vox pop poll of the crowd and the prevailing feeling was that they had to hang around like cattle because “Guvament has no respect for people”.

I wonder if what was achieved in Mandeville has been replicated in other offices across the country. And is the passport office the only culprit here? From the cries of people in the media, it is clear that we are dealing with a national problem, with public services at the top of the totem pole. This has also seeped into the private sector, given the numerous complaints against Flow and Digicel in the telecommunications field.

I commend the agencies for decentralizing their services to other parts of the island. Kingston is not Jamaica after all, and rural people in particular can benefit. But the necessary space must be provided so that people do not suffer the kind of inconvenience that I saw at the PICA in Mandeville. They deserve better.

In the meantime, the government appears fully committed to a comprehensive review of public sector compensation. I can understand people’s impatience, but we didn’t get there overnight and it will take effort to get to a point of reasonableness in determining the public salary. Thus, the urge for patience.

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Nigel Clarke, has shown balance in the task and must be given the necessary time to do it right. The same people who are getting impatient today, some no doubt for political reasons, are the same people who will cry foul if things are not properly and reasonably arranged for those concerned.

The goal of becoming a first world country by 2030 is, at this point, an elusive dream. Without a cadre of lean, balanced, dynamic, well-trained and committed public servants, you can say goodbye to that dream. It is an arduous task for which the tentacles of political manipulation must be cut from the necks of public servants for progress to be made. But the civil servants themselves will have to undergo a radical change in their attitude to serve the public.

Raulston Nembhard

Dr. Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator and author of the books Finding Peace Amid Life’s Storm and Your Self-Esteem Guide to a Better Life. Send your comments to the Jamaica Observer or to stead6655@aol.com.