Did you know that there are at least two gentlemen who are seventy years or older who hold down important positions within the system of public administration in Guyana where the official retirement age ranges between 55-60 years of age?
When a teacher reaches the age of 55, he or she is expected to retire. But yet we can find within the governmental service, persons who are retained beyond the age of seventy?
Now why would any country wishing to provide opportunities for its ever increasing army of young unemployed want to have persons on the government payroll who are above the age of seventy?
Did you know that there are many retired persons who have been retained on contract in government jobs beyond the age of sixty five? What signal are we sending to other employees who wish to pursue a lifelong career in the Public Sector?
What are we saying to them? Are we saying that there are no other persons within the country or within the Public Sector who are younger than 55 years old but incapable of replacing these sixty five and seventy year olds?
It is one thing to have persons in political positions hold office way beyond the official retirement age. It is another thing for technocrats within the system to work way beyond their age of retirement.
If I were asked to name the most important issue that needs to be addressed in Guyana’s Public Service it would not be the poor wages. Far more important than annual wage increases is the need to encourage workers to pursue careers within the Public Service.
The Public Service has now become a transition station for professionals. Many seek employment in the Public Service in order to gain the necessary experience before moving on when what is really needed to develop capacity within the Public Sector are opportunities for upward mobility.
You cannot encourage young, bright professionals in the Public Service if they have little opportunity of reaching the top echelons of the service and do so on meritorious grounds.
However, because of the highly politicized nature of our society and the fact that the Public Service has historically been anything but apolitical, what has happened is that workers do not see themselves as being able to work from the bottom to the top without aligning themselves to the ruling party.
As such, for highly qualified professionals, the Public Service has become a stop-gap measure used to acquire experience before moving on to greener pastures which invariably means jobs outside of Guyana.
If the local Public Service is to build capacity, those within its service must feel confident that they will be afforded the opportunity to graduate to the top echelons of the service without having to benefit from political favoritism. This confidence will not be had when persons are retained way beyond the retirement age when there are capable replacements available.
A good gauge of the degree to which the Public Service facilitates upwards mobility is the extent to which persons are promoted.
If someone who is a good worker at the bottom of the scale does not gain a promotion at least every three years, it means that the system is not very accommodating to upward mobility.
This lack of upward mobility is a far greater disincentive to workers than the annual five per cent increase that is offered each year. Nothing matters more to workers than to know that their efforts are acknowledged and rewarded, and promotion is a means of satisfying both conditions.
To receive a promotion, no matter how small the commensurate pay increase that goes with it, means a great deal to a worker. It says something to them. It says that their efforts are appreciated. It also says that they have what it takes to move higher up and this in itself is one of the greatest satisfaction that any worker can receive.
On the other hand when persons as old as sixty five and even seventy are retained on the job, it says to others within the workplace that these persons are being treated as indispensable and since those below know that this is not true since they feel they can also get the job done, it demoralizes the workers at the bottom.
A demoralized worker becomes discouraged and production and efficiency suffers. The workers being denied promotion become frustrated in the face of these indispensables being retained on the job.
If in the 21st century we are still retaining seventy year olds on contract in the employ of government, then something is seriously wrong with the system and that defect goes beyond inadequate wages.
Pres. Ali putting water meters on the citizens in Berbice, and not meters on Exxon oil pumps.
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