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Editorial: A smarter, sharper public sector

Published:Saturday | March 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM

At its most basic, performance-based pay refers to incentives given to employees for performing well on the job. Indeed, performance-based compensation systems have been boosting productivity and increasing efficiency in some of the better-run private-sector entities in this country.

And the idea is often mooted in discussions about how to improve education in our schools. Some hate the idea, while others think it is worth a try.

Some argue that performance-based pay should be applied in the classrooms so that teachers would be compensated according to how they teach their students. For example, if the students perform well and post good examination results, the teacher receives higher pay. Conversely, teachers whose students perform poorly would receive less pay.

It is further argued that such an incentive would motivate teachers to become more creative and pour more resources into the task of teaching and imparting knowledge to their students. There is no doubt that some teachers work harder to meet targets and performance objectives than others. Those against the idea feel that this incentive scheme could create disharmony and hostility in the workplace. We submit that like everything else, the system would have to be managed properly and fittingly communicated to participants.

We note with keen interest recent remarks made by Senator Kavan Gayle, president general of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, as he endorsed the proposal to introduce performance management systems in the public sector.


New wind blowing


Is this signal of a new wind blowing? Traditionally, labour unions have stuck to their task of protecting workers essentially from sanctions and dismissals, and not too often have we heard them agreeing to anything that will change the status quo. It is time that other unions say publicly how they feel about this proposal which is seeking to ensure optimal service delivery to persons seeking access government services. Let's hear, for example, how the unions feel about weeding out deadwood from the public sector and introducing an agile and leaner work force.

For years, there have been cries for the public sector to be modernised so it can deliver more effective and efficient service to the people of the country. The business sector feels it is not getting the requisite support from many segments of the public service to help grow the economy. The time-wasting and delays encountered in doing simple tasks such as registering a business, getting building permits, enforcing contracts and dealing with court matters are just a few areas which hamper businesses.

The International Monetary Fund, we are told, is also anxious to see a speeding up of the transformation of the local public service. So there is tremendous agreement that a shift is needed, which will see the local public sector becoming more focused, disciplined and exhibiting strong checkpoints for accountability.

We believe the introduction of a performance-based scheme for the public sector deserves support from all sectors. It's already working as a motivational tool in the private sector. Besides, we believe that many employees in the private sector would be happy to know that through their own commitment and dedication they can directly boost their earnings each month.

In reality, there has to be a dramatic shift in culture. The public servant must understand that he or she has a key role in promoting and assisting economic development.