Towards a highly motivated public service

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President David Granger stands with the 2017 graduating class of the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service on Monday (Adrian Narine)

…President says salary increases aimed at securing good life for Guyanese

By Lisa Hamilton

A WELL-PAID, highly motivated and professional Public Service in Guyana stands to benefit all Guyanese and the coalition government is determined to achieve this.
President David Granger hit home this message on Wednesday during an address to the nation. Included in his address was the announcement of an increase in the minimum wage to $70,000, bringing the overall increase to 77 per cent since the A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition’s accession to office.
President Granger has long emphasised that a well-equipped public service is crucial to the economic prosperity of Guyana, as well as its institutional stability, national security and social cohesion.

At the 23rd Biennial Congress of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) this year, he underscored that a proficient Public Service is a necessity for the delivery of quality and timely services to the general public.
During the announcement on Wednesday, he noted that this is why the government will always work to ensure that payments and benefits keep abreast with positive economic changes in the country; this is with a view to ensuring that public servants maintain satisfactory standards of living.

“Public servants – including teachers, nurses, doctors, members of the Defence Force, Police Force and the security services – will benefit from these permanent salary increases,” the Head of State said.

President David Granger and his delegation chat with President of the GTUC, Ms Coretta MacDonald, who is flanked by Attorney General Basil Williams and Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection with responsibility for Labour, Keith Scott (DPI photo)

“Increases in salaries and wages have made a positive impact on the performance of public servants themselves, on their households and on the national economy as a whole. Public servants provide public goods and services which benefit everyone and every sector of the economy. The APNU+AFC coalition is committed to creating a proficient, professional, highly motivated and well-paid Public Service. Your government is committed to good governance and to ensuring that all Guyanese can enjoy the good life.”

The Public Service provides administrative services to the entire country, offering agricultural services; birth, business and death registrations; immigration services; port health services; postal services; legal and local government services; public education health, infrastructure, telecommunications, security and social security, among other services.

Understanding the importance of these individuals, very early into his presidency, President Granger launched a Commission of Inquiry into the Public Service. Speaking at the swearing-in of the Public Service Commission (PSC) back in 2018, President Granger emphasised a, “Public Service Commission (PSC) that is to ensure the establishment and existence of an impartial Public Service by insulating public servants from political interference and influence.” He also stressed a public service that is free from political dictate and control, reiterating that not only should the Public Service be neutral, but that a public servant must also be appointed on merit. This does not suggest that the public servant is not entitled to political affiliation, as Guyana is a democracy, with its constitution bestowing such a right on every citizen. But the public servant is expected to be professional in his/her day-to-day functions, serving whatever party is in government.
Giving extension to this understanding should also include the seamless transfer of government, with a ready pool of professional public servants who are there to ensure continuity. As according to President Granger, “They should not be threatened by or interrupted for political reasons or upon a change of government”. This is the ideal and is accepted; however, it should not be expected, as in Guyana’s case, that those public servants who would have been found to commit all kinds of misdemeanors would be retained, as well as being made to face mandatory prosecutorial action.

The Bertram Collins School of the Public Service, a visionary initiative of President Granger and his coalition government, has already commenced this much needed and overdue re-orientation of the Guyana Public Service, with its first graduation of public service cadets who are already in place, and have begun to lead the charge for a better, efficient, and impartial public service.

In the past, President Granger visited the headquarters of various labour unions, reaffirming his administration’s commitment to improving the quality of life for all workers; this, regardless of the industry in which they are working, or which union is representing them.
In June 2019, 51 public servants drawn from various ministries, departments and agencies within the public sector were honoured by the Department of the Public Service for their years of service.

BETTER SALARIES, BETTER SERVICE

With increases in salaries and benefits over the years, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan has asserted that better salaries must mean better service.“Irrespective of our impending new status, more money will mean nothing to us, will not result in our advancement, if we are not disciplined in our approach and outlook,” he said.

Likewise, the President has called on public servants to upgrade their training continuously if they are to remain relevant to the new economy.
He has also called on trade unions to play a greater role in the well-being of their workers. Meanwhile, others such as Director-General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, while he was Minister of State, also spoke to the government’s overall vision for the private sector.

“A new public service… is envisaged by our administration. One that is accessible, one that is relevant, one that is reliable, one that is resourceful, and one that is responsive to the needs of the people; that is equally effective in all regions of Guyana, be it on the coast and hinterland, and all communities rural and urban,” the former State Minister said. As new graduates from the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service are churned out each year, President Granger has urged them to be politically neutral and to perform with integrity, intelligence and professionalism.