By Fares Braizat, Dec 15,2021

It is a huge undertaking, but only those who believe it is marvelous and performing well — immediate beneficiaries — will want to wait forever to reform the public sector. While there are some exceptions, like the Central Bank, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, and Ministry of Finance, the overall level of performance in many sectors, such as education, health, transportation, environment, local councils, public works/maintenance, energy, agriculture, water management, cultural reform, youth education and tourism infrastructure, leaves a lot to be desired.

Because of this weakness, Jordan’s position in many international indices has been falling — more recent in the knowledge index — and this should not be allowed. These shortfalls have structural, more than cultural, causes that can and must be addressed.

At structural level, while keeping the sight on the role of the state as an “enabler”, it is logical to set a target to make the size of the public sector similar, not necessarily identical, to its size in the economy as an objective measure, or one of many. Therefore, there is need of a scheme prescribing the number of employees needed by public sector institutions, and in what professions and skillsets. This should be accompanied by a plan for a proper exit for redundant employees (overemployment), which would entail reskilling and upskilling programs along with proper evaluation of skills and areas of improvement, that would enable them to, perhaps, join the private sector, which needs more space and fewer obstacles to grow to absorb more employees.

It is surprising to realize that many institutions have employees without a written job description. How can one develop proper evaluation KPIs without a benchmark?

A comprehensive program across all government institutions requires linking incentives and retribution to performance only, and that ought to be based on scientific measurements of institutions’ performance. As part of this effort, the Civil Service Bureau must be overhauled to maximize competition based on skills, digitize government delivery, and root out the phenomenon of hiring “ghost employees” (see Ministry of Water fiasco).

The political, economic and financial costs associated with the existing state of affairs in the public sector are too expensive to ignore. The longer its reform is delayed the more expensive and difficult it will be to fix. Although modern bureaucracy must be impersonal and it should operate like a machine, investors, who are the best barometer to measure practical public sector performance in real time, have been complaining about slow, employee-driven, procedures, unnecessary lengthy processes, inefficiency, irresponsibility, intentional delays and arbitrary interpretation of legislations, among many other complaints.

Those investors and their projects are badly needed for the economy to grow and to contribute to the reduction of the worrying unemployment problem. Unfortunately, they have been moving out of the country in droves, either for good or to branch out in new markets when they are badly needed here for economic and political reasons. Their departure negatively affects the reputation of the country and sends all the wrong messages to local and international investors.

The civilian sector costs the treasury 33 percent of the domestic revenue, which equals 45 percent of the tax revenue, according to the 2021 budget. These shares are not expected to go down in the next few years if things continue to go on as they are.

From a cost-benefit analysis perspective, the sector is not delivering the quality services it is paid to deliver. Therefore, principles good governance ought to be applied to improve performance.

We do not have to go far to see why the public security sector which costs the treasury 18 percent of the domestic revenue, which equals 24 per cent of the tax revenue, is doing a good job while the too expensive civilian sector is not.

The security sector performance has been measured against the level of people satisfaction with safety, security and crime rates over the years. By the same yardstick, the civilian public sector is lagging behind significantly.

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan News on December 15, 2021. For the original article source, click here

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