WITH around 2600 civil servants promoted since 2009, mostly on the basis of being 'politically loyal,' it's time to ask what our ruling parties want -- 'politically obedient' or 'sincere and hardworking' civil servants?
With appointing of 85 new joint secretaries last week, currently the total number of joint secretaries is 928 against 250 posts. The excessive promotions have not only seriously damaged the ideal pyramid structure of the administration, but have also put in place a politically blessed group of people. Politicisation seems to have been taken to a ridiculous level
If we take the cabinet secretary's recent comments to The Daily Star at face value, then we now have a completely merit-based and service-oriented administration functioning in Bangladesh. However, the reality is the total opposite. We want to remind the AL rulers about a pledge included in its 2008 election manifesto -- A Charter for Change. It was about the formation and functionalities of a Public Administration Reform Commission (PARC), with an aim to establish good governance in the country. Has the Commission delivered what it was meant to?
The government's sudden shift from the reform process in the bureaucracy only re-affirms that our rulers, be it any party, are willing to go any length for strengthening their influence and vested interests. On one hand we have excessive promotions and on the other far too many disgruntled officers known Officer on Special Duty. But what about the ones in the middle who, irrespective of political preferences, keep on doing their job sincerely and honestly?
Not about the ones who are currently serving, but we are skeptical about the would-be civil servants of the future. What message are they getting? There is enough to fear that beside general preparations, the subject of political allegiance may count as a benchmark for entering and therefore serving the bureaucracy. Devoid of merit or performance, it's the frightening rate of political promotions happening in today's Bangladesh that compels us to articulate our fears.
We don't discourage our future bureaucrats to have their own political preferences provided that they don't get politically prejudiced while preparing to enter or function as a public servant.
The writer is Current Affairs Analyst, The Daily Star.