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EDITORIAL: Yet another high-level study has exposed how the government continues to dump trillions of rupees each year into pays and pensions for unproductive public servants, once again raising the question if the public sector would ever allow reforms that cut down on its own perks and privileges.

A report produced by a five-member team of the state-run Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) has found that the federal government spends more than Rs 8 trillion on paying 1.92 million employees and providing pensions, in addition to over six dozen kinds of perks, privileges and other benefits. And, to make matters worse, very little is known about their contribution, outcome and impact on taxpayers.

It’s also no surprise that the judiciary is front and centre in receiving this largesse, closely followed by the civil service, especially the Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS, formerly DMG), which “manipulates special benefits instead of allowing the professionals of other cadres to excel and return the taxpayers with outcomes”.

None of this is new information – except perhaps for the quantification of state funds sucked into this black hole – just like everybody already knows how public servants are given a lot more in terms of non-monetary benefits that never show on their pay cheques.

This, yet again, puts the spotlight on two pressing issues that have never been addressed properly. One, the paralysis in the government sector, particularly the bureaucracy, that has become the very definition of inefficiency and corruption.

“Politicians pride themselves on placing their favourites in the public sector knowing that the taxpayer has no say in the process and will pay the cost”, the report rightly notes.

That has made it bloated and unproductive, with the surety that the last thing its beneficiaries will ever allow is breaking this status quo.

And two, the crisis in the current account. It is simply shocking that a country that cannot stay solvent without bailout programmes that come with very harsh conditions throws away money so lavishly on the most unproductive sectors under its command. Surely, these reports will find their way to the international press and raise eyebrows in offices that greenlight high-interest loans that keep us solvent.

The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has already advised the government to streamline the tax regime by doing what has never been done before – tax the rich and provide relief to the poor. The government’s considered no such thing so far, of course, but it will have no choice if the Fund makes future loans contingent upon such reforms.

Similarly, perhaps the only thing that can get the ball rolling on public sector compensation reforms is also a push from our usual lenders. It makes no sense to cut bailout cheque after cheque when the state is bent upon wasting so much of it on its blue eyed.

It seems the realisation that the old ways cannot be kept up any longer has still not made its way to the very top. And even the most basic reforms need to be nudged or forced from the outside.

Either way, there can be no excuse for such waste when the current account is so deep in red. If the state still fails to get its act together, then everybody will continue to suffer, especially honest taxpayers who are made to pay for the excesses, corruption, theft and incompetence of others.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

Comments

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Orion Oct 28, 2023 09:44am
Short and to the point. This is the mother of all ills in Pakistan. We spend the most on those who do maximum disservice to the Nation. Our public service's sheer mammoth size is unsustainable.
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Ahmad Din Oct 28, 2023 11:11am
Civil Service and especially bureaucracy are burden on national exchequer and their output as well as contribution is zero. The entire bureaucratic system needs to be abolished and replaced with technical and professional people who have the knowledge to understand the system. Another negative impact of this bureaucratic system is that shining people like doctors, engineers and professors are trying to induct themselves in bureaucracy which result shifting of human resource from productive sector to un-productive sector which will be catastrophic in future. If all the secretaries are removed and powers are transferred to the heads of attached department then there will come tremendous improvement in service delivery. These bureaucrats and politicians badly politicized govt departments by interference for their personal gains. At district level DC, AC, AAC, ADC, Tehsildar are contributing nothing to tax payers rather creating problems for them. Focus should be health and education.
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KU Oct 28, 2023 11:31am
There are many shocking and shameful ‘’Firsts’’ in our country and because no one can question the government or public sector performance, every illogical action becomes normal. Besides the total number of Raj baboos is over 3 million, it is estimated that this horde is responsible for over Rs. 1500 billion in corruption each year. Let us accept a fact and ease our pain in the future, Pakistan and the fate of people are in the hands of the corrupt who are not loyal to anyone but themselves.
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Muhammad Nawaz Oct 28, 2023 11:53am
Govt. Should Privatize all, starting from Parliament.....
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Usman Oct 28, 2023 12:59pm
Eliminate pensions.How long will the tax payers money be used for pensions.
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IMTIAZ CASSUM AGBOATWALA Oct 28, 2023 02:16pm
Honest taxpayers are already suffering. It needs a leader to bell the cat.
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Prof. Dr. Muhammad Abdul Quddus Oct 30, 2023 11:35am
@Ahmad Din, A good comment and recommendation
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Tariq Qurashi Oct 30, 2023 01:22pm
Civil Service reform is talked about ad infinitum, but nothing is actually ever done. Most of the Civil Service is a dead weight that prevents the country from progressing. Seventy percent of the Civil Servants are probably surplus and not required. Reforming dysfunctional and rent seeking departments and ministries is probably too big and complex a task to undertake. Creating efficient modern parallel institutions that eventually replace the dysfunctional ones may be the best solution. Look at the Motorway/Islamabad Traffic Police or NADRA; they are efficient, honest and well trained. These are both new organisations. Reforming old departments and Ministries will probably be almost impossible. Let us create efficient, service oriented new ones staffed by well trained and committed officers, and let the old ministries and department slowly wither away because they are no longer relevant.
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Shoaib Oct 30, 2023 04:03pm
Really important piece of information. Makes us realize how ineffective and poor institutions are making lives of millions of people a disaster.
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