. .

Down-sizing in the government departments

  1. Iran-Pak refinery and Turkmenistan gas pipeline
  2. Boosting the economy through agriculture
  3. Down-sizing in the Govt. departments

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi, Islamabad
Mar 13 - 26, 2000

The Government has reportedly directed all Ministries and divisions to complete their down-sizing exercise and merger arrangements before the end of March 2000. The latest instructions have been communicated by the Chief Executive Secretariat which is not satisfied with the pace of work in this regard.

The Cabinent Division in its meeting on December 11 last year had urged the need for carrying out down-sizing in the ministries / divisions by March 2000. Sources seized with the exercise said that there are 31 divisions having 11,909 employees and a wages bill of Rs. 2,821 million. The number of attached departments is 422 with 3,74,030 employees and a wages bill of Rs. 17,456 million. The number of corporations is 105, with 5,49,004 employees and a wages bill of Rs. 42,553 million.

In an earlier recommendation abolition of 23 main organizations, privatization of 22 corporations, merger and transfer of attached departments / organizations, substantial down-sizing and merger or abolition of divisions was proposed. Effective down-sizing was urged from the top to the bottom level. The rationalized structure of the federal government was proposed to be 18 ministries and 24 divisions against the existing 26 ministries and 31 divisions.

Sources said if down-sizing is seriously carried out, it will reduce excess staffing in these departments by 57,000 i.e. 15 per cent of the present employment and will cut the wages bill by Rs. 4,450 million or 25.5 percent. The down-sizing will involve 131 of the 422 attached departments. The corporations taken together have a net loss of Rs. 2.97 billion with a total assets of Rs. 128.3 billion and employment of 67,190 persons.

The government is undertaking merger of a number of corporations in the public sector in line with the policy of privatization and transferring state-owned production industry to private sector. In the first such step, operating units under Federal Chemical and Ceramics Corporation (FCCCL) and Ghee Corporation of Pakistan (GCP) and Research and Development Centres are being made to work under the administrative control of National Fertilizer Corporation of Pakistan Limited. Similarly, the proposed Gas Regulatory Authority (GRA) and the existing National Electric Power Regulatory Authority will work as one regulatory body for energy sector. It is also reported that the Ministries of Water and Power, Petroleum and Natural Resources and Industries and Production are to be merged into one institution under the name of Ministry of Fuel and Energy.

These are measures in the right direction and should have been taken by previous governments long ago. Many of the state-owned corporations have become unproductive, redundant and useless since long causing unnecessary burden on the national exchequer. Directors and managers of these bodies have been drawing fat salaries and high perks without the least attention of the government towards their utility and productiveness. Government officials were deputed to run these institutions on commercial lines, an impossible task for them. Mismanagement and unnecessary expansion and induction of extra staff, continued to fatten their size and also their problems without an end in sight. For decades, successive governments have been making experiments of setting up new corporations or modifying their structures and functions for no practical purpose.

Similarly, however, another exercise is going on in the name of right-sizing in the government departments. Thousands of government employees are likely to be declared surplus as a result of the on going exercise. According to reports these employees whose number, exceeds 20 thousand have been identified as "deadwood" and their services may ultimately be dispensed with.

The economic and management logic behind down-sizing may be strong but the whole process should have a humanitarian approach. We should not foreget that unemployment in the country has assumed alarming proportion. Throwing people out of jobs in the present situation, for whatever reasonable cause it may be, appears most unjustified. Barring those working against slots considered as lucrative, attractive, powerwielding and public dealing, the plight of majority of government employees is miserable. Their salaries are low as compared to sky-rocketing inflation. They are forced to adjust their expenditure after every price increase within their existing salary which means erosion of their purchasing power and downgrading or standard of living. If a study is conducted it would show that an overwhelming majority of the government servants comes from the poor of middle classes and their problems are compounded if they are the only earning members of the family. In this back drop the ongoing exercise appears to be callous, to say the least.

The Chief Executive, General Pervez Musharraf has vowed to provide a clean, committed and efficient administration to run day-to-day business of the government. His intentions are good but creation of a huge surplus pool where employees would continue to draw salary till their absorption in other departments or socalled 'golden handshake' is hardly a viable solution of the problem. First of all, creation of a surplus pool of 'deadwood' is not understandable. If an employee has become 'deadwood' because of his inefficiency that is beyond any correction he should better be sent home directly instead of making him a burden on the national exchequer (in the pool) or dumping him in another department. Similarly, there should be no room for the corrupt or those who did not fulfil the criteria but got their jobs because of political patronage. Leaving these aspects added, the process of down-sizing, right-sizing and merger of ministries/departments which was initiated years back has also contributed to the bureaucratic inefficiency. How can the government expect hard work, devotion and honesty from an employee when sense of insecurity hangs like a Damocles sword. Successive governments have been indulging in this unpleasant task but no fruitful results are visible, rather such steps are leading to more unemployment. Already lakhs of youth including those graduating from universities and other institutions are running from pillar to post in search of jobs which are nowhere to be found because the government is shrinking and the economy is hit by recession. It may therefore, be considered that instead of taking steps that cause more frustration among people, the government should concentrate on two things. Draw out practicable plans and programmes to create economic activity on an urgent basis that would in turn create job opportunities. And secondly, the age of superannuation should be lowered at least by two years to allow those who have played their innings to retire and make room for the fresh blood.