Are public servants victims of political spitefulness?

At the end of every year, with monotonous predictability, talks between the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) on the matter of public service wage increases enter into a condition of deadlock.

After the post-talks vitriol on both sides the government simply says that a five per cent increase is what it has to offer. It does so knowing only too well that while the union will, in principle, reject the offer, the nation’s public servants are only too happy to accept even such a meagre offering, particularly at this time of the year.

It is an interesting and deeply disturbing scenario since, in effect, the nation’s impoverished public servants are caught between an employer that appears to care rather less than it ought to and a trade union which – to put it bluntly – has long been reduced to the status of a paper tiger on account of its lack of any real resources with which to ‘fight’ the government.

The last time that Guyanese public servants too any really robust industrial action was in 1999 and while the GPSU appeared to be behind the strike action it was the public servants themselves who ‘carried the fight’, so to speak. That was the last occasion on which public servants secured anything remotely resembling a meaningful salary increase.

It is, of course, no secret that there is much about the public service that needs fixing, including what, in many cases, is a quality of service that leaves a great deal to be desired. What is no less true, however, is that the average public servant has, for years been provided with sorry little incentive to raise his/her game. And while this does not mean that low standards must be accepted where they exist, it is unlikely to get higher standards out of people who have no real incentive to work.

The toughest part of being a public servant these days is being able, in many instances, to afford to meet some basic expenses like electricity, water and telephone bills, rent, children’s school texts and bus fares. Many public servants must put up with the indignity of having to pass up a pair of shoes or a new suit of clothing because to embrace such ‘indulgences’ might mean having to miss a meal or perhaps several meals.

Such research as this newspaper has done into the lending/borrowing pattern from the GPSU indicates that a few decades ago, loans from the credit union had to do mostly with acquiring household items that had to do with starting a home. Today, however, many, perhaps the majority of loans have to do with emergencies that range from medical and funeral expenses for ill or deceased relatives to settling what are sometimes exorbitant bills from the power company.

There is something disturbingly disfigured about a society in which those workers who serve as servants of the state must in many instances wallow in impoverishment, while those who engage in far less noble pursuits live a good deal better. And that this happens while a political administration that constantly claims to care about the nation continues to ignore this appalling anomaly for reasons that sometimes appear to be suspiciously political.


Implementing 20% of state contracts to small businesses

It is widely believed that if smoothly implemented and scrupulously monitored the actualization of the provision in the Small Business Act of 2004 for a 20% allocation of government’s “goods and services” contracts to small businesses could make a major, positive difference to the country.

City Hall’s helplessness in another potentially emerging crisis

The breathing space afforded City Hall in the wake of central government’s intervention to liquidate the City’s indebtedness to Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers and to foot the bill for services up to the end of December last year, is over.

Strengthening Guyana/Brazil economic relations

It would be entirely fair to say that successive political administrations in Guyana have, over time, continually squandered what, unquestionably, have been glaring opportunities to take advantage of the fact that Brazil, by far this continent’s largest country with the biggest economy, shares a border with us.

Influence peddlers ‘touting’ for would-be investors

During an extended discourse with the Stabroek Business on Wednesday, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin went to some trouble to make the point that the APNU+AFC administration was particularly keen to provide a convivial environment within which to attract investor attention and (in the presence of Go-Invest Chief Executive Officer, Owen Verwey) made the point that one of his Ministry’s priorities was to properly position and equip Go-Invest to provide the various services associated with investor inquiries.

Scaling down the sugar industry

The pragmatism associated with the decision to significantly scale down the size of a sugar industry which has become a significant financial strain on the rest of the economy and on the country as a whole cannot gainsay the hardships at individual, family and community levels that will accrue from the alarming levels of job losses, some of which have already been announced.

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