Public servants are grossly underpaid

Dear Editor,

I write to dig up once again the sore issue of the grossly underpaid state of teachers in particular, and public servants generally. The subject has been a bone of contention for close to a generation now, and is one which I am sure all public servants think deserves more attention than it has been given in recent times.

It has to be given this attention now because the time has come for Guyanese to free themselves of the mental stupor and blind acceptance of the well-applauded speeches of the relevant functionaries.  (Workers for example should know that those who work for less that the non-taxable annual income threshold in no way benefited from the reduction in the income tax rate.  In fact, this adjustment to the tax rate only exacerbated the disparity between Guyana’s rich and poor. The ministers some of them unprepared for the job at hand, you may agree, and everyone else went to the bank smiling.) A larger proportion of Guyanese are now more educated than before at the tertiary level.  We are tomorrow’s leaders and we need to make it our God-given responsibility to analyse and discuss issues of national importance more objectively to resolve the deep economic and social problems faced by the wider society.

I shall not belabour readers again with statistics on incomes and expenditures, but wish to again bring to the fore the deep and pervasive poverty and societal ills entrenched within the ranks of public servants. I do this because public servants form a significant proportion of the population and are essentially the primary organs of the economy. Failure of any one of these is liable to have cascading undesirable effects across the entire economy.  This in itself speaks of the value of public servants’ service to the nation.

What I do know is that this letter will be but a drop in the ocean, but the mantra I offer all labour unions and relevant parties across Guyana is this: Public servants are subsidizing government’s services to businesses and the wider population.

What this means is that when a public servant delivers a service valued at $150,000/month, and this public servant is paid $50,000/month, that public servant is providing a subsidized service to the value of $100,000/month, or $1.2 million/annum. He and his family now have to dislocate themselves to find the other $100,000/month in unpaid wages.

Government is content to have public servants just read the Chronicle, remain uninformed, and come to work tomorrow.

When public servants have to beg, borrow, get a second job at the expense of their children’s welfare, live in mommy’s and daddy’s home way past adult age, put up with other awkward domestic circumstances, etc, we are subsidizing government’s services to businesses and the wider population.  My father as a headmaster and education officer subsidized services to the population.

All teachers and the rest of the public servants, from the nurses to our policemen and women whom we love to publicly castigate for taking bribes, are subsidizing services to the population.  It is not that our police are born scamps or crooked cops, it’s just that taking a bribe or engaging in other corrupt practices are just another means of providing the basic necessities for their families and homes. I don’t condone bribery, but I am almost certain that if every police officer had a comfortable salary, the issue of bribery and corruption would be scaled back to non-existence.

Public servants should not have to beg for a lunch, ask for a drop, pay short fare on the bus, engage in improper sexual relations for extra money, and whatever else you may care to add to the list.

They are valuable and important, and deserving of the acceptable standard of living of the next Joe. The fact is, public servants need a dramatic increase in wages and salaries to correct the injustice of their daily existence.

There has been talk in the past of not providing significant increases in wages to public servants for fear of causing inflation. The solution is simple: spread the increase over an extended period, say 12 to 24 months, and adjust monetary policy appropriately.

Yours faithfully,
Craig Sylvester

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