Being generous beyond limit  

Shamsul Huq Zahid        | Published: October 04, 2018 22:16:00 | Updated: October 05, 2018 21:23:20


The unusual generosity displayed in the matters of extending pecuniary and other benefits to the public servants might lead many to believe that the government is floating on cash.

In 2015, the government enforced a new pay scale for the public servants. The new scale ensured a substantial hike in the compensation packages. Even the finance minister defended the hike by saying that the new pay scale would act as a disincentive for the government employees to be involved in corruption. Whether the pay-hike has really acted as such a disincentive or not remains a matter of detailed scrutiny. But the popular perception about the public servants indulging in corruption has not changed at all.

The government, some years back, had offered interest-free car loans to public servants holding the ranks of secretary, additional secretary and joint secretary. In addition to loans, the officials availing the facility were entitled to a handsome amount as car maintenance allowance. Only recently, the car-loan facility was made available for the officers holding the rank of deputy secretary. Besides, the car maintenance allowance for all the loan recipients was hiked to Tk 50,000 per month. The allowance is good enough to meet all the monthly expenditures involving the maintenance of a car and pay monthly loan instalments. So, the recipients of car loans get an opportunity to own cars at the cost of public exchequer.

After the car loans, the government thought it would be proper to offer house-building loans to the public servants. The finance minister in his last budget speech announced the plan to make available the low-interest bearing housing loans for the public servants. Accordingly, the budget contains a Tk 3.0 billion subsidy allocation on this account.

Some days back the Finance Division, the House Building Finance Corporation and four state-owned banks signed an agreement under which these financial institutions would disburse home loans among the public servants at an interest rate of 5.0 per cent. The government would pay from its own coffer the remaining amount of interest. The loan ceiling will be Tk. 7.5 million for an individual official. A total of 1.4 million government employees will be entitled to receive the subsidised home loans.

The government has decided to be even more generous to help its officials and servants as it is mulling extending unusual financial help to the retired public servants who had withdrawn the full amount of their retirement benefits.

A proposal is now in the final stage to bring nearly 20,000 such retirees, who had withdrawn the retirement benefits in full at the time of retirement earlier, under the pension system again. Such an unusual gesture on the part of the government would cost the public exchequer an estimated Tk 1.45 billion a year. The facility reportedly is going to be granted following an appeal from the retired employees concerned. The employees sought the government help as they had exhausted all the retirement benefit money. A committee formed by the government found logic behind the demands of the retired employees and recommended reinstatement of their pension facilities. Such employees include those who had retired at least 15 years back.

There should be no complaint if the government decides to extend better perks and privileges to the public servants. But one has every reason to raise questions about such move if it is aimed at appeasing certain section of people who are, in most cases, inefficient. Besides, the government servants have never proved to be helpful to the people. There are many neglected sections in society who need urgent help, financial or otherwise. But the government has always remained indifferent to such requirement. The fact remains that the money the government spends belongs to the taxpayers. So, the latter would always want that their money is spent in a prudent manner and on right causes.   

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