Let me start off by saying that salary increments can be good. And if anyone deserves a break, the market woman and corner vendor people of deserve all the breaks they can get. But sadly, those people hardly factor in our equation except when we need to increase taxes on them.
Interestingly, the break that this salary increment comes with is more beneficial for those civil servants earning a higher salary than for those at the lowest end of the salary scale. If you don’t believe me, please calculate how much President Adama Barrow and cabinet members stand to gain and compare it to how much a government driver or private soldier stands to gain.
A thirty percent across the board increment assumes that the rising high costs of living affects everyone equally. And that’s definitely not true. Ministers, mandarins around power, and senior government officials do not feel the pain as would a traffic police officer or primary school teacher. The people at the lowest end of the salary scale are the ones that are suffering the most. Yet they benefit the least!
And this whole idea that increasing people’s pay is what it takes to motivate them is very problematic. Motivating people to stay in government or accept government positions should go beyond financial incentives. Service to the people must not be anchored on what the so-called service provider stands to gain financially. Unfortunately, that seems to the prevailing sentiment in The Gambia. Government service is seen as a vehicle to individual riches not necessarily a vehicle to serve the people of The Gambia.
This brings me to the very idea of what some call government service or civil servants or public service or public servants. Regardless of what we call it, what remains constant in the nomenclature is “service or servants.” The premise is that governments exist to serve the people. if you fall for that premise, then you will accept the joke that the interest of the people is what drives government policy. Do you really think that this salary increment is to benefit the people or to simply benefit some people?
The reality is that our government exists to first and foremost serve and benefit those in government. That’s their main objective. The people and the benefits they get from the government is secondary if it’s even part of the equation. That is why terrible hospital conditions don’t bother certain government officials. That is why the terrible services NAWEC offers do not bother them. That is why the terrible schools do not bother them. They don’t have to go to the same hospitals as majority of the people. Their children don’t attend the same schools as majority of the people. NAWEC’s ineptitude does not affect them as it does the majority of the people. Still, it is the majority of the people that pay for the comforts these government officials enjoy. Tell me of a single minister whose house flooded over the weekend and has no where to live today! The irony would have been befuddling if it weren’t so blatantly in our faces.
But back to the thirty percent pay increase. The government took money from various other government ministries and institutions in order to be able to fund this increment. Guess where they didn’t take any money from: If you guessed the President’s Office, you are in business. In fact they increased OP’s budget but took money from the National Human Rights Commission. Ditto defense! They say farming is the backbone of the country but I am arguing that the presidency is the backbone because that office is where the money goes.
I can only hope that someday, Africans will wake up to the reality that those in government are in it to first and foremost make their own lives better. Bettering the lives of the people they claim to be working for is secondary. That’s how the system was designed by the colonialists! And yes, I’m completely sure that mandarins around power will not agree to this. It cuts deep!
Think of it this way: Government workers are supposed to make life better for the people. The people pay taxes and subject themselves to the authority of those in government in order to live a better life. However, in our case, those in government live a far better life than the ones they serve; that is, the people.
The life the government worker lives is paid for in loans and taxes by the people. And speaking of loans, I heard the that our government’s recent trip to India was very “successful” because we were able to borrow some money! Since when has shame died in us such that we take pride in begging and borrowing from others? And while still on loans, I wonder what our Islamic preachers think of these loans we take from others given that we are required to pay interest on them. I ask because usury or what we call Reba is prohibited in Islam. It is harram.
A thirty percent pay increase does not help the market woman who continues to pay the same duty rates to the government. But that woman never factored in their thinking because government workers are the priority and not the people they supposedly work for. If government is serving that woman, why would she pay anyone to live a life she can only dream of?