President Granger recently announced a 66% increase in the stipend for teachers-in-waiting at the CPCE. It is a wise, timely investment by Government, and a most helpful incentive for students, who could use it. This is positive.
In view of the government’s insistent emphasising of the vital importance of education, this is a good and practical step. It is one that could go far in retaining students and attracting more to the training ranks, who find the financial sacrifices required unmanageable.
Using this as context, this paper humbly points His Excellency to another place that needs serious attention and assistance of substance. It is one where significant impact could be made, and if left unaddressed would tighten the screws on an already bad situation.
The people identified for governmental action would be the cohort of state engineers. They labour across Guyana for embarrassingly low remuneration. In a field characterised by demanding studies, and with state responsibilities of a most sensitive nature and reach, a low pay package is neither good nor right, incentivising nor retaining, and heavily contributory to what has become a revolving door in the ranks of Guyana’s engineering overseers.
KN in a news article of several weeks vintage, pointed to the known, and then proceeded to identify the consequences. “The roles of engineers are critical to the development of infrastructural works. However, from 2017 to first half of this year, 19 engineers have left the public sector. This was highlighted in the Ministry of Finance’s Mid-Year Report which noted that the engineers have since sought employment in the private sector.”
That is the loss of approximately one engineer every two months. It is not 19 out of 900 such underpaid toilers. The state’s population of engineers is much smaller, which makes these departures–if not hemorrhage–unaffordable and weakening.
One of the weakening effects noted has been “a shortage of critical positions which has resulted in the delay of several infrastructural projects.”
Beside delays, the departing seasoned and skillful carry their institutional knowledge, the hands-on savvy of a solid experience, if not sterling track record, gained on the ground, and the great awareness of what is required for ethical stewardship of projects on which hundreds of millions of dollars are spent.
The latter is priceless, given the billions of dollars at stake and the sordid record of contractor performance on numerous costly projects. When principled state engineers are diligently manning the people’s interests and money, their value is beyond measure.
In fairness, the government did announce that it “has implemented a measure to attract and retain staff whereby an updated compensation structure for engineers and technicians was approved last month.” That “updated compensation structure” must be competitive, and it must be material.
By his own admission, the Minister of Public Infrastructure noted that, “the Public Service Commission was offering a salary of $80,000 to a graduate engineer.” To be candid, $80,000 is not only an astonishingly small sum, but one that had to be highly unacceptable. It is surprising that the rush for the private sector pastures was not more pronounced.
At $80,000 per head, it is more surprising that the state retained any engineers. By any standard that has to be a pittance for people with an advanced degree. There are lowly clerks in this country, with far less credentials, who make more.
To cut a fine point on this, this new “updated compensation structure” cannot be movement from $80,000 to, say, $100,000 or even $120,000 per month. Though the latter represents a 50% increase, it would not be enough, and the difficulty could continue with retaining talented and qualified personnel. This may be unimaginable in the way government thinks and operates, but for the new structure to be meaningful, base pay has to start somewhere around a minimum of $150,000, with a slew of fringes attached that would take the whole remuneration package to the vicinity of $250,000.
It may appear as going too far, too quickly. But the caution is that if it is at lower levels, there is the risk of being considered too cheap, too unattractive and, thus, thanks, but no thanks.
The compensation package must be generous, or the drain of engineers will not be staunched.
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