From Shamim Ahmed
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
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
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.