Good and faithful public servants

Thursday, May 31, 2012

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In many public sector jobs, the dedicated performance of the good and faithful frequently goes unnoticed or taken for granted. In some cases, the quality of work performed is never seen or fully appreciated by the public.

For example, the public has no way of assessing the performance of judges and they are condemned to labour in obscurity. Much of the outstanding work performed by dedicated civil servants is never trumpeted so even when someone proffers perfunctory expressions of appreciation, the public, quite understandably, remains sceptical. More often than not, the public is only aware of the mistakes, lapses and failures and can offer only their caustic criticism.

Regrettably, it is often only when public sector officials assist citizens in an emergency that gratitude is expressed. The police force is a clear example, of being appreciated in emergencies but criticised and subjected to abuse most of the time.

We would like to make a departure from that approach and to recognise the persons whose hard back room work is being discussed without any reference to them. We are talking about the dedicated civil servants in the Ministry of Finance superintended by the long suffering Financial Secretary Dr Wesley Hughes for their preparation of the budget.

Let's be clear. We are not here debating to merits of the budget. We are not debating the numbers or the tax policies or the allocation of government expenditures. In fact, we have already pointed out some of the many shortcomings in the budget, particularly as it relates to the tourism industry which has come under grave threat, and we have reported in our news pages on the concerns of many sectors.

But it must be appreciated that the preparation of the Government's budget is a major exercise spanning several months, involving long and irregular hours and causing many sleepless nights before being finally tabled in Gordon House.

There is extensive data gathering and intensive consultation and then there is the unpleasant process of selection of what to provide for and how much to allocate. For this, they will win no friends in other ministries or in the political directorate. They have to compile all of this massive information and impossible wish lists and work through it with the Cabinet. In the last two weeks before the Budget Speech by their ministers, many of these public servants will lose weight and hardly find time to spend with their families.

Governments come and go and ministers of finance come and go but the team at the ministry of finance continues to do the work and delivers the budget every year. For example, Dr Hughes has served in one capacity or another with nine ministers of finance.

When the budget includes new taxes they will be vilified, justifiably or not, for their lack of caring and overtaxing the country or taxing the wrong things.

Some will criticise them as not the "brightest and the best" but nobody can question their patriotism, dedication to duty and hard work. To them we say, thank you, good and faithful servants of the people.




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