The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Mastery of accruing undue benefits  

| Updated: September 11, 2020 22:48:28

Mastery of accruing undue benefits   

The government servants, these days, are a pampered lot. The perks and privileges enjoyed by them are highly attractive compared to what their predecessors were entitled to during the period between 1971 and 2010.

The salary and allowances of the public servants got nearly a 100 per cent increase in 2015. They are getting housing and car loans almost at no cost. The car maintenance allowance given to officials from the level of deputy secretary and above is unreasonably high.

The reasons behind the government granting high salaries--- earlier, the salaries of public servants were unattractive compared to that of their counterparts working in large private firms and banks---could be to ensure better service delivery and reduce corruption.

Whether there has been any progress in meeting those objectives remains a matter of independent scrutiny. The people seeking service from the government offices do find almost no positive impact of the higher spending on the public servants.

Besides, on occasions, the government actions, apparently, designed to favour the public servants tend to give rise to a sense of discrimination among people.

The latest revision of the rules concerning investment in Wage Earners Development Bonds (WEB) is a case in point. The WEB offers an attractive rate of return as high as 12 per cent per annum.

The Bangladesh Bank (BB) in a circular clarified that the Bangladeshi expatriates who are now living in Bangladesh and receiving a pension in foreign currency from abroad will not be eligible for buying the WEB. Besides, Bangladeshis who are now working in foreign offices of the Bangladeshi origin shipping and airlines and receiving their salaries in a foreign currency will not be eligible to invest.

But the government servants working in Bangladesh missions abroad will be the privileged ones. They will be free to invest in the bond in question.

The money these officials are receiving as their monthly compensation package is transferred in foreign currency from the state coffer. What can be more discriminating than this!

The central bank, however, is not to blame. It has only transmitted the finance ministry's decision that reportedly is designed to reduce the interest burden of the government on account of the investment in the WEB. The investment in this particular bond has been going up in recent days because of the higher rate of return.

Similarly, the maximum limit for individual investment in government sanchapaytras is Tk 5.0 million, but the investment limit for government employees in pension sanchayapatra is Tk 10 million.  Many private-sector retirees do deserve a similar facility.

The fact remains that all these rules are made by government officials. So, they protect their own interest best, at times, rather unfairly. Their political masters, in most cases, go along the line taken by the bureaucracy.

But when the situation turns sour, the politicians do face odds, but not the bureaucrats. The latter do know the art of wriggling themselves out of troubles. 

The words 'done in good faith' incorporated into the relevant laws protect them from many justified legal actions. Even the anti-graft body is restrained from summoning any suspect government official for grilling outright. Even the mighty politicians are not entitled to such protection.




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