SUVA, Fiji (Jan. 8) - It looked like an inspired move a year ago when the Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, announced that a cabinet minister would be responsible for public service reform.

It looked, finally, like the real thing after a decade of talk without action.

But apart from some tinkering such as the pay cut that will be restored, there has been precious little reform worthy of the name, which may go some way towards explaining why the Prime Minister has taken on the public service portfolio.

For reform of Fiji's civil service is long overdue. It needs to be an organization that serves the needs of the people instead of an organization that expects its needs - or perceived needs - to be supported by the people it purports to serve.

And it needs to be smaller.

This can perhaps be best achieved through privatization of a range of activities or through public and private partnerships aimed at delivering better services more efficiently.

There are whole departments - even ministries - whose functions could be better performed by the private sector.

For example, the ministries of Works, Energy, Information, Public Enterprises, Civil Aviation, Housing, Tourism and Communication could all be operated privately with improvements in services to the public.

Core activities such as health, education, justice and water supply are far too important to be handed over to private interests, despite the fact that any government today would be more than happy to unload the headache of water supply on to the private sector.

But all kinds of other activities can be better performed by private industry.

At the same time, vital services such as poverty alleviation, social welfare, women, youth and sports would be better delivered by or in conjunction with non-government organizations at a fraction of the cost to the taxpayers. Early retirement, temporary cuts and the like will never meet the needs of public sector reform.

They are unreliable and manifestly unfair. But clearly the nation cannot continue to spend 85 percent of its income on the civil service. We can't afford it and something drastic needs to be done.

Privatization and partnerships offer a way out without condemning many thousands of people to the unemployment scrapheap. So the sooner the process is underway, the sooner we will experience the benefits of better services and - we dare to hope - lower taxes.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment