Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Petitions and salary increases

This is my column today.

In my haste to beat the deadline for my column last Monday, I left out a great deal of information that I wanted to share with everyone. There’s an online petition for people who want to manifest their support for the reproductive health bill and to make their voices heard over and above the din and dynamics of the ongoing debate.

Although there is already a sizable number of senators and congressmen who have already signified their unequivocal support for the bill, we know that we should not let our guard down given the intense pressure from the Catholic Church. In fact, the advocacy of the Church has precisely been focused on our legislators and the Church has not made secret its intent to apply all kinds of pressure on them even to the extent of threatening these lawmakers with excommunication.

So please sign up and let our legislators know that there is widespread support for the bill. The petition can be found at http://www.PetitionOnline.com/rhan2008/petition.html.

The petition is being spearheaded by the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network through the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines . In the accompanying request for support for the petition, the organizers cited that “more than 10 women die daily due to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes. The big bulk of those who die are poor women at the prime of their lives. This is simply unacceptable and must be stopped. Congress has the power to do this.” I agree.

Last Monday, I wrote about how the priests at this church where I go to for Sunday mass tend to hijack the religious service as platform to attack the reproductive health bill. Well, what do you know, it appears now that I am not the only person who has taken offense at the irresponsible behavior of the priests. I dare to call the behaviors of the priests irresponsible because the arguments that they peddle to attack the reproductive health bill are clear falsehoods. For example, they keep on insisting that the bill legalizes abortion. This assertion is not only a barefaced lie, it is malicious. And pray tell, what else could be more hypocritical than priests deliberately lying to the faithful during mass?

Anyway. A friend shared with me that she walked out in the middle of the homily when the priest, who was also using the pulpit to campaign against the reproductive health bill, said that “rich people want to kill the babies of poor people.” This is the kind of incendiary statements that certain priests spew during homily. My friend said she couldn’t help muttering in a loud voice “sobra na ito!” By the way, we attend the same church.

***

The hot topic this week, which is something that appeals to me as human resource management professional, is the proposed increases in the salaries of government officials and employees as appropriated in the 2009 budget. As usual, there’s too much speculative drivel being ascribed to the proposal, one of which is that this is another diversionary tactic from MalacaƱang. The question is: Diversionary tactic to diffuse attention from what?

Let me state clearly and in no uncertain terms my support for salary increases for government officials and employees. It’s clearly about time for this. We all know that the salaries of those who work in government have remained uncompetitive. There’s no need to trundle out the sob stories of the hundreds of thousands that turn the wheels of the government bureaucracy—we are familiar with most of them.

However, the undeniable fact that nobody seems to be recognizing is that the government bureaucracy is actually heavily bloated. There are just too many people in government and most of them, quite frankly, are doing menial and insignificant tasks that can easily be taken over by automating processes. A number of government employees do not add value to whatever it is that the government agency is supposed to deliver in the form of service to taxpayers.

There is clearly a need to reengineer the government bureaucracy. There’s a need to eliminate jobs that are clearly unnecessary. Do you know that the job of a major percentage—some say at least 40 percent—of government employees can be summarized in this sentence: To check and recheck if the necessary signatures are already in the document? There is also a need to identify the performers from those who are simply filling in space in the bureaucracy.

However, I seriously doubt whether these can be done or that there is any politician or leader with the political will to pursue such an unpopular move. It would be tantamount to committing political suicide. But just in case someone with a death wish is listening out there, one way that the government can increase salaries of government employees is really to trim down the bureaucracy and reallocate the savings as salary increases to those who are productive and whose posts are necessary in the bureaucracy.

Of course there are people in government who do their jobs well. They are qualified, they are dedicated, and they joined government service out of a strong sense of altruism. And these are the people who need the most government attention most. Chances are, these are the people who occupy leadership positions in the bureaucracy. And the current proposal stands to benefit this people as it prescribes a graduated scheme that increases the percentages of increases as you move up the bureaucracy.

If you come to think about it, this actually makes sense because that’s the way salaries in the private sector are structured. Middle and senior-level managers are supposed to have higher salaries because of the magnitude of responsibilities and accountabilities. So the proposed increases simply align government salaries to that of the private sector—at least as far as structure is concerned. It’s called external equity. It’s also called talent management and retention.

Unfortunately, the people who claim to be omniscient in this country have already attacked the proposal on the grounds that the people at the very top of the bureaucracy don’t need salary increases. The argument presupposes that everyone in government is corrupt, particularly those at the very top, and therefore have no need for their salaries. This kind of reasoning is not only unfair, it is also deceptive and tends to legitimize corruption in the bureaucracy.

Given the spate of scandals and allegations of corruption that have bedeviled this administration, the reservations being expressed by certain quarters are compelling. The problem, I think, is that certain people in MalacaƱang have not learned to master the art of balance. The proposed salary restructuring is a move in the right direction. However, it would have been more acceptable, and it could have been a public relations coup, if they declared early on that the President would be exempt from the increases. The discussions would have been pointed towards a more enlightened course.

1 comment:

Twin-Skies said...

Thanks for the link to the petition - it's about damn time we show the church a piece of our mind!

They claim to speak for the moral majority... I would love to see the look on their faces when their claim blows up in their face. It will be priceless.