Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Wednesday, September 9, 2015, Bhadra 25, 1422 BS, Zilqad 24, 1436 Hijr

A few questions around the national pay scale
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Published :Wednesday, 9 September, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 29

The cabinet has approved a proposed national pay scale for government servants and the three defence services. Obviously, the move has meant an enormous increase in salaries for everyone who happens to be part of the nation's administrative and defence structure. The pay has nearly doubled, which in turn calls attention to the critical question of how the government plans to meet this additional burden on the exchequer. That there has been an increase in pay is not in question, surely. But what certainly leaves people in a state of worry is the degree of it. Rarely has there been an instance of government salaries being raised, at one go, by a hundred per cent or something close to it.
And now, additionally, we have the issue of the special grades, two in number, which have come linked to the salary rise. The first special grade includes in its fold the Cabinet Secretary, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and the chiefs of the three defence services. The pay in this category has made a quantum leap from Tk. 45,000 to Tk. 86,000. In the second special grade, which places lieutenant generals and senior secretaries of the government on the same plane, the jump has been from Tk. 42,000 to Tk. 82,000. The query which comes in here relates to the creation of the two special grades. What are the defining features of a special grade? More to the point, how do the two special grades under the new pay scale vary? Finally, in a move that is aimed at promoting or enhancing the welfare of government employees, why was a need at all felt for the creation of these two special grades?
A crucial question regarding the new pay scale arises through an observation of the placing of senior government secretaries vis-?-vis senior military officers. There is, for instance, the matter of the defence secretary whose position logically places him above all senior military officials, including the chiefs of the three services. That is what protocol demands and yet the new pay scale gives the defence secretary, who heads the ministry responsible for defence related matters, a perch below those who are supposed to be under his authority. Precedence appears to have been disturbed, to a point where a senior secretary, and not just the defence secretary, must draw salaries lower than those who technically should be below them in designation or rank. Much room for anomaly has thus been created here. Are we to suppose that the defence services are above the Ministry of Defence?
Clearly the gravest ramification of the proposed national pay scale is the havoc it will create in the market for people belonging to professions outside the government. Teachers, doctors, engineers, NGO workers, journalists, transport workers --- you name it --- will now feel the crunch because traders will seize the opportunity to raise the prices of their goods in light of the national pay rise. Think of it. A nearly hundred per cent pay rise will, given the bad tradition of greedy trade that has been part of life in this country, lead to a nearly hundred per cent rise in the prices of household commodities. That means basically food. It also means all those other factors on which normal life is dependent. With the prices of gas and electricity already having risen, and now with the pay scale factor coming in, citizens will find it harder to breathe.
By all means, let us have a pay rise for government servants, but let that be confined to the rational. And that question of precedence? It calls for a quick, convincing response. Indeed, it calls for a correction.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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