Cabinet has approved a substantial pay raise for civil servants, according to Minister Chris Baryomunsi.
The increment, whose details are yet to be obtained, could cost the taxpayer as much as Shs 487 billion every year. It is in order that government employees earn what they deserve.
Indeed, we have always advocated for improved terms of service, especially for specialised categories of public servants such as medical workers and teachers.
However, higher pay must go hand in hand with improved productivity. For instance, teachers in government primary schools earn more than their counterparts in private schools, but the latter perform better academically than the former; what explains this?
The problem is the laissez faire culture in government. Many government employees feel that they can give the minimum to their employer while expecting maximum remuneration.
Others go around the poor pay by engaging in corruption practices such that officials who earn peanuts inexplicably own rentals and apartments worth billions.
Therefore, raising civil servants’ pay must take into account performance and integrity. Civil servants who don’t perform and those who are inclined to bribery don’t deserve a pay raise.
There is also need to streamline and rationalise the public sector to cut costs and improve on efficiency. Last year, President Museveni complained in a letter to the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, about the duplication of tasks in government departments, agencies and authorities, proposing mergers where possible.
It is, indeed, quite likely that with such rationalisation, the current salary bill could sustain a smaller but better-paid and yet more efficient civil service that delivers first-class services without the need to burden the taxpayer any further.
Last but not least, if such a pay rise is to be sustainable, affordable and sensitive to the taxpayer’s feelings, the money should be extracted from the bloated public administration budget and reduced political expenditure.
The government can’t have its cake and eat it. It must consider cutting back on the number of districts, MPs, RDCs, cabinet ministers, presidential advisors, and the perks that come with these offices, including security, convoys, etc.
Otherwise, piling a heavier burden on the shoulders of the taxpayer at a time the economy is performing so poorly is recipe for disaster.