PROFILE SHEIKH MUHAMMAD IQBAL
COLUMN FOR THE RECORD
POLITICS & POLICY THE THIRTEENTH NAM SUMMIT 
SOCIETY 1- ARE THE RETIRED ANY GOOD FOR RE-EMPLOYMENT?
2- IBA JAMSHORO EVENT 2002

 

ARE THE RETIRED ANY GOOD FOR RE-EMPLOYMENT?

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Future challenges and implications

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By MUHAMMAD BASHIR CHAUDHRY
Mar 03 - 09, 2003
 
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The Prime Minister has reportedly pledged that his government would not be generous in allowing re-employment to superannuated government servants, who should be allowed to go home to let the serving officers run the administration. This would end the frustration among the serving officers who sometimes are ignored for appointment to key positions that are filled by the retired army officers or civilian bureaucrats. The serving officers are also sometimes ignored for promotion, as the retired officers capture the prized vacant posts. It is not uncommon to see the serving officer being made an OSD to create vacancy for a retired officer. Not satisfied with one or more re-employment opportunities after retirement, a large number of retired civilian and military bureaucrats are said to be seeking further extensions in their re-employment contracts by exploiting their connections. It is anticipated that now appropriate steps would be taken by the government to end the injustice to the affected serving officers, who presumably are equally competent and committed to the job. This might lay proper foundation for good governance in all spheres of life.

Retirement is a turning point in the life of every government officer. Barring exceptions on medical grounds, he could easily continue in service for a few more years as his mental alertness and physical condition is reasonable. However, he is obliged to call it a day on attaining 60 years of age. As a consequence of retirement, two important things happen. His income level reduces drastically as retirement pension replaces salary and other perquisites that go with the regular service. This is however subject to the proviso that his Provident Fund is paid to him on timely basis and that the payment of monthly pension starts as soon as the salary stops. In practice this is not so simple or easy. In some case it has taken years before the retired officer could see the colour of his pension or other dues, and that too after lot of running around. The other things that hits him is that he has nothing to occupy him unless he starts meddling in family matters or kitchen affairs, to the discomfort of his wife. The adjustment to the new situation is not easy for him or his family, particularly if the payment of pension or the dues is delayed. He would be facing embarrassing situation if his children are still dependent on him and need payment of fees to continue education; he does not have enough of savings or if the pension does cover normal family expenses. People are quick to change their attitude towards the retired. One should not be surprised if most of his friends overnight turn into distant acquaintances. For the high-flying retiring officer, emotional adjustment is often more difficult. The wise make proper arrangements for the transition to retirement while the rest find adjusting to the new situation more problematic. At a given time the retired officers comprise a large part of the top educated people and the government might consider taking appropriate steps to ease their difficulties.

 

 

Superannuation age differs in different countries and possibly in different professions in the same country. Normally, for most employees it is 60 years of age. Armed forces have retirement traditions that differ much from those of the civilian officers. Armed forces officers normally keep on retiring after putting in certain number of years in a given rank and attaining certain age. Most of them are middle aged at the time of retirement and they have still left many years before superannuation. Traditionally, most officers seek retirement on being superseded in promotion. Retirements on medical grounds are also more frequent in the armed forces than in the civil services. It is good that in the forces, they, at least some of them, are trained to be qualified for the service in the civil services. The government has prescribed specific procedures for entry of the armed force officers into the civil services. A large number of the officers are accommodated in this way. The two procedures for the induction of officers from armed forces into civil services and the third procedure for re-employment of the retired bureaucrats are as under:

a. Ten per cent of the total posts in three occupational groups of the civil bureaucracy are reserved for young officers from armed forces. These officers are inducted on regular basis against their share through the Federal Public Service Commission. The three occupational groups include district management, police service and the foreign service group.

b. Through another procedure appointment of ordinary retired army officers on contract is allowed in eight specified groups/ministries against ten per cent quota of the total annual vacancies through defence services officers' selection board up to a maximum of 5 years or till the date of attaining the age of 60 years whichever is earlier.

c. The government has re-employment policy of the civil bureaucrats that provides parameters for such appointments. It emphasizes that re-employment beyond superannuation should be an exception and not the rule. It says that re-employment should be allowed in case of non-availability of suitably qualified or experienced officers to replace the retiring officers and if the officer is a highly competent person with distinction in his profession / field; the re-employment does not cause a promotion block and retention of the retiring officer, for a specified period, is in the public interest.

Obviously, frustration among the serving civil officers would not be due to the re-employment of armed forces and the civilian officers as per prescribed procedures mentioned above. It must be due to the reasons that there has been excessive re-employment in cases outside the three procedures described earlier. Such re-employment practices may be stopped and should not be resorted to in future to the disadvantage of the serving officers. In view of the changing scenario and as part of the reforms process, the annual intake of officers in civil and armed forces as well as the re-employment practices for both the categories may be re-assessed.

There is another class of retiring officers. These are the officers who retired from the nationalized commercial banks, the development finance institutions or the public sector enterprises. On retirement a few of them, having good personal rapport with the chief executive, were re-employed for a few more years. Previously, on retirement many of them were absorbed in the private banks or industry but things have changed now. In the last five years or so there has been exodus of large number of officers who have been relieved of the duties under the right-sizing exercise for making the institutions ready for privatisation. The supply of retired officers has been much more than possible vacancies. Only a small number of them have been re-employed and rest are still looking for the jobs. The money paid to them under the scheme has lost much of the value. At the time the golden handshake schemes were formulated, returns on National Saving Schemes were as high as 14% per annum. At that time it was considered that the officers being relieved from service would be able to get the same cash inflow each month as they were getting when employed. Substantial reduction in the profit on NSS coupled with the loss of value of Rupee has disrupted all their plans. Moreover, due to mergers in the private financial institutions and less industrial/economic activities, they have less opportunities for beneficial occupation. In the circumstances they feel as if they have been cheated.

The retiring officers chose different professions/assignments to keep themselves occupied and to supplement the pension which is fast losing purchasing power. Some of them go back to their family business or agricultural lands and live an active social life. Some seek solace in politics while a few others started industrial enterprises. A large number of them go to the private industrial/commercial sector where they are generally well received and are known to get excellent results in certain areas. Some of them join an NGO or themselves establish NGOs to further different social causes and thus remain occupied. All these are those officers who do not get re-employment through extension in service or an employment contract in the government. A large number of the retired armed forces officers and some of the civilians also get recruited in different Industrial Trusts/Foundations set up by different branches of the armed forces. Fauji Foundation is the best known though there are Baharia, Air Force and Police Foundations. Fauji Foundation has over the years become one of the top business groups in Pakistan. Besides industry, it is running a large number of schools, colleges, including professional colleges and a university. Its contribution to economic development and employment generation is very substantial.

 

 

The civil service officers rarely retire before attaining age of superannuation. Therefore, until a few years ago, very few of them were seen looking for a regular job once they retire. Some of them would get extension for a year or so while the others would retire on attaining superannuation. Their savings and the pensions were considered sufficient to take care of them during the retired life. But things have changed quickly for them as well and many of them now want a job to be able to survive honourably.

One thing about the retired officers is clear from the above discussion. The retired officers, at least most of them, have a lot of stamina to undertake employment or start own business or join some other socio-economic activities to keep them gainfully occupied. They are assets for the nation and full benefit should be derived of them. Pakistan is currently facing dearth of experienced and competent people. The standards of education at higher levels are extremely low and the government is worried how to raise it to the acceptable level at the earliest. The international financing institutions like the World Bank and the ADB are offering grants and credits to the government for capacity building and for improving the human capital. Further, the country will need large amount of financial resources, which at present are scarce. The retired officers, in most cases, are able to handle many supervisory or advisory assignments for a few more years after superannuation. These officers are worldly wise with long experience and their services can be gainfully utilized in many areas. It is in this area that the retired officers can play a big role. For this essential purpose one would not be surprised if a new cadre of the retired officers were formed. The following are some of the areas where the retired can easily contribute:

a. Millennium development goals can be achieved only through good governance, transparency, democracy, etc. The retired people can help develop and improve the procedures and internal controls in different departments and institutions. They might also train the young officers in various ways. The retired people with clean service record may be selected for this purpose.

b. Pakistan is currently anxious to improve the quality of its higher education with a view to accelerate the pace of economic growth and development. The country does not have the resources or the time to raise such a big force of teachers to fill all the vacancies. The retired people are the resource base that can be exploited to cope well with the situation. These retired people were educated when standards of education were high and merit was recognised. They would very much deliver if they are honourably invited to fill the gap.

 

 

c. As part of the good corporate governance, independent directors are being considered for appointment on the Boards of the listed companies. The retired officers can be utilized for the purpose. These officers can also be considered as members of a number of special committees constituted by the government, by the State Bank of Pakistan and by many other such authorities. At minimal cost, many things would get accomplished.

d. The developed countries encourage the setting up and functioning of Think Tanks on different important issues. The retired people who have life long experience in different specialized fields mostly staff these institutions. These are in a way links between the government and the public and also provide advice to the government and other authorities on important issues. Pakistan can also encourage the functioning of such Think Tanks. This should absorb a large number of retired officers and thus the research they carry out might be useful for the government and its various functionaries. A reasonable stipend/honouraia to the experts is all that may be required. The savings accruing to the nation due to their advice are expected to many times cover the stipend amount.

e. The armed forces invite the retired officers on different occasions. The retired officers feel elated and gladly attend such functions. The civil services and other institutions may start similar traditions for the retired officers.

f. A few years ago the government was considering certain facilities for the senior citizens. It is proposed that such schemes and benefits are finalized at the earliest. The age for the senior citizen may be fixed at 63 years.

There was a time when the pension amount was considered sufficient to support the basic needs of the family of the retired officer. This is not so in most of the cases now. The Rupee has lost much of its shine with much reduced purchasing power. Therefore, to bring an improvement in the situation there is urgent need to appropriately increase the pension amount. This step may in many cases check temptations among the serving officers from resorting to 'the making of hay while the sun shines' to adequate provide for their retirement. There is also need for introducing social support system coupled with more opportunities for beneficial re-employment as described above. The prevailing socio-economic situation is such that through re-employment of the retired officers, the government would get the most benefit by achieving many of the millennium development goals.