Salaries and wages are issues that occupy the interest and attention of virtually everyone.
In an individual’s quest for economic survival and advancement, often at a quicker rate than others, many do not seem to think that they are earning enough.
Most persons want more. Often the simple justification is that the cost of living is constantly rising with inflation.
During the process of reasoning, little thought is given to productivity levels and about employers’ ability to pay more. No one thinks about their current lifestyle, their current expenses, as well as their sometimes unrealistic aspirations and about their own personal responsibility.
So whether one wants a large house, a new car or chose to have eight children is not typically a factor in their rationalisation process. The only issue to them is that “man must live”.
Generally, public servants in Grenada fit just like everyone into this situation. As the largest group of employees in the nation, they exhibit all these characteristics.
Virtually all of them will say they are underpaid. If one checks comparative salaries and wages in the private sector, a lot of civil servants are paid on par with many persons in the private sector.
Whatever the reality of the situation, the fact of the matter is that over the years public servants have adopted a number of coping strategies in order to survive in today’s hostile world environment. And they appear to have done so very well.
Just look at the quality of houses built by some public officers, the cars they drive, the vacations taken abroad by many and the number of children some of them have going to secondary school including private institutions. Indeed, the Grenadian civil servant can be categorised as having middle class status.
Some have inherited wealth from parents and relatives, others have access to assistance from abroad, others demonstrate good initiatives to make money outside of their normal salaries and others work very hard to make ends meet at doing other things.
On the other hand, there are many civil servants who abuse overtime arrangements and do not produce during normal working hours. In some cases, their overtime pay exceeds their monthly wages. This is happening because of weak Supervisors and Managers who do not do their work.
It appears there is a sort of, “you scratch my back and I scratch your back” mentality existing among some civil servants.
“Civil Servant A” gets his claim for overtime work and mileage signed quite easily without any questions being asked by his Supervisor for payment from the Treasury but the former knows to keep his mouth shut to the illegal deeds of the latter.
Some civil servants continue to use government’s resources such as vehicles to do their personal business like drop off here and there.
They follow the principle of “feeding where the cow is tied”. It even gets ridiculous where people go home with sugar, toilet paper and bottled water.
In some departments, many hold the toilet paper in their draws. Can you shudder to think about the poor visitor who has to use the bathroom and the embarrassment it can cause with no toilet paper in the washroom?
Some officers depend on using training, traveling, conferences and meetings to collect pier-diems to supplement their income…. the top-up mentality at play in Grenada.
In the process of abusing the system, many civil servants simple try to hog all the exposure afforded them while denying others the same opportunity.
So the sessions where money is paid, some of the civil servants fight to attend these meetings but are prepared to share the rest where little or no money is involved.
The worst kind in the civil service is those who use their offices to demand bribes or grease hand as it is known in local parlance.
In the process, they deny the government of its revenues and take away most of the spoils for themselves. It is all about stuffing enough in their pockets and to hell with the Treasury.
These are the civil servants who have lost their consciences but still expect the government to pay them every month. Will they ever understand the relationship between payment and productivity?
What about those civil servants who fight to get onto boards in order to collect renumerations even if they make absolutely no contributions at meetings of these state-owned bodies and corporations?
There are also reports circulating about others who carry around their own bill books and forge expenses for reimbursements. The Treasury is once again left the poorer.
Grenada now has a public service that is much larger to look after than that of St. Lucia’s that has 50,000 more people in its population. It is clear that the government of Grenada has too many employees to pay. If the problem is not eventually addressed it will only serve to stifle our growth and development.
The government also needs to address what appears to be a tendency by a certain group of businessmen in the country to avoid collecting VAT and paying it into the coffers of the Treasury by opening up businesses and closing down these businesses and opening up again with a different name all within a 12-month period in order to beat the system.
Are the Ministry of Finance and the VAT Unit on top of the situation? Do they have an intelligence unit to gather this kind of information and to take pre-emptive actions?
It is unfair to depend solely on the well-established businesses like Hubbards, Huggins, Grenada Bottling Company, L.L Ramdhanny, Renwick & Thompson and such others to be the main collectors of VAT for the State while allowing others to cheat and beat the system and get away with what many will describe as “murder”.
Is it any wonder that the Ministry of Finance is said to have collected some 40 million E.C dollars less in revenue for the first 6 months of this year as compared with the same period in 2011?