The public bureaucracy is expanding. More and more buildings are being constructed and this will inevitably result in adding numbers to the already swollen employment roll of central government.
Recently, it was announced that the Ministry of Public Health headquarters, destroyed in a fire years ago, is going to be rebuilt to the tune of $365M. Also, the Ministry of Business is expanding its offices. The contract for this was given as $88M.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently pulled down one of its small buildings which housed its Protocol Division and is now constructing a larger building which probably will end up costing more than $200M when all the interior works are completed and the building furnished. The Ministry of the Presidency is erecting a huge fence around the Presidential Secretariat. The fence has been nicknamed, the “Great Wall”.
The Ministry of Public Security has advertised for consultancies services to effect repairs to a number of police stations in Regions 9, 7 and 4.
These involve major construction since consultancies services are required. In addition, the Ministry had advertised for repair works to the traffic headquarters and other police stations.
What is most interesting is that the Ministry of Communities had advertised for bids to undertake repairs to the Kitty Market. The repairs to the market had begun in 2015 by the City Council of Georgetown which owns and operates the facility. Now it seems as if even without auditing that project, the Ministry is going ahead and completing it.
One has to ask just what benefit is going to be derived from the increase in the square footage of government office. The Ministry of Health, Headquarters in Brickdam was destroyed in a fire years ago. The PPP/C, which loved to build also, did not rebuild the headquarters. It used the existing buildings within that compound and elsewhere to house the sections affected by the fire. In other words, it rationalised its available office space.
Now we see the APNU+AFC government increasing the amount of square footage in many ministries. And there is no evidence that the public is going to get value for money for all the hundreds of millions that are going to be spent.
Inevitably, more and larger government buildings will mean more persons will have to be employed. In other words, the public bureaucracy will expand instead of shrinking. It is already too large and the public cannot be said to be getting value for all the billions that are being spent each year on sustaining this over bloated public bureaucracy.
The best way to reduce the size of the public bureaucracy and to improve efficiency is to reduce the number of buildings which are used by government. The savings are tremendous but it also forces the government to do more with less space.
All around the world, this is what is happening. Major companies are reducing the amount of office space they utilise. The savings are tremendous.
Overheads are also being slashed since workers are being encouraged to work from home. So instead of having to provide office space equipped with air conditioning and lights and computers and printers and all the other things which go into an office, workers are being encouraged to work from home, as far as this is possible.
In Guyana, the opposite is happening. The overheads and floor space of the public bureaucracy is being increased. Guyana is going in the opposite direction to the rest of world.
Guyana does not need such a large public bureaucracy as what exists now. Money is never going to be available for a lot of things if the public bureaucracy is constantly expanding.
One commentator observed recently that Guyana at present has the most costly public bureaucracy than any other period in its history. And we still cannot pay public servants or teachers a living wage.
It was shocking to discover that no teacher in Guyana gets more than US$1500 per month. Yet, there are ‘pen pushers’ in the state bureaucracy earning twice as much.
No wonder taxes are so high! These taxes are being kept high because the money has to be found to support this swollen bureaucracy.
The shocker though is that the government has advertised for expressions of interest in running a casino at the Marriot Hotel. Just the other day, the government was complaining about the debt with which it is burdened as a result of this hotel which the ruling parties criticised when they were in opposition.
Instead of selling the hotel, they now seem keen on keeping it, despite the drain on the public purse. But they want to close sugar factories and estates!
Guyana’s increasing public expenditure will lead to a crash. It did in the 1980’s when more than 30,000 workers lost their jobs under the guise of redeployment and retrenchment. What will it be called next, downsizing?
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