THE Public Service Department (PSD) and Cuepacs deserve to be congratulated for concluding an agreement so quickly after the Prime Minister intervened to ask for an early settlement of the dispute.
It has turned out to be a New Year’s gift to the Government’s 1.4 million employees, which we hope will benefit the nation and the public too!
The public, like Cuepacs and the Government, will be generally “relieved” over this agreement coming as the year goes out.
However, there would be some public concern that the “on the spot amendments” made during the hurried negotiations may not have adequately taken into account the high price that we have paid, for the improvements in the Public Service New Remuneration Scheme (SBPA).
Firstly, the apparent improvements to SBPA are actually concessions made to Cuepacs, to reduce the Annual Performance Evaluation Report marks, from 75% to 65%, for a salary increase.
This means that the PSD has sacrificed the performance targets to make it easier for civil servants to qualify for salary increments .
The public will legitimately ask whether this lowering of performance standards justify higher tax expenditure, especially when the Government has committed itself to cutting its growing budget deficits?
Secondly, another major concession given to Cuepacs is to lower the marks for the Exit Policy (i.e. leaving the service for inefficiency), from 70% to 60 % .
The duration of poor performance is also now extended to 12 months from the proposed six months.
The question is why should we tolerate poor performance at 60% and for as long as one year?
However, the agreement to hold joint consultations every three months is laudable.
This will enable more opportunities to encourage Cuepacs to come up with ways and means of raising quality standards in the public service, instead of concentrating mainly on salary increases.
These consultations should additionally improve public sector employer/employee relations and understanding of good governance and hopefully reduce financial wastage and corruption?
It is hoped that during these quarterly consultations, the Government will also brief Cuepacs’ leaders on the national economic and budget performance.
This broader consultative approach will help to enhance Cuepacs’ appreciation that more concessions and subsidies will not help us achieve our Vision 2020 goals .
Cuepacs must realise that unless their productivity and efficiency improve even more than the rising cost of the salary improvements, which in many areas exceed the employees in the private sector, the economy will be burdened with larger Budget deficits and more debt.
Our economic progress and sustainability must be protected, just like our security and defence, at all cost.
However, we congratulate the Government/PSD and the Cuepacs for the successful conclusion of the SBPA before the New Year.
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM,
ASLI Center of Public Policy Studies.