By Sarjo Bayang
Who pays salary plus benefits of Civil Servants, President and Ministers?
Little boys and girls when you ask them where the fat salary of President and Ministers come from, guess what they will say. Even adults who are not properly informed would think that President and Ministers are free to take money from the economic powerhouse; the national treasury without restriction.
The correct answer is that you and other tax payers are the ones employing your President along with Ministers to serve public interest. They are given good enough pay with lot of fringe benefits all meant to get the work done without needing to steal public funds. Good Ministers and a President with public interest at heart prefer to serve best shared interests; knowing that is what they are paid for from the national economic and financial powerhouse.
Tax payer power and influence in stakeholder matrix
To say you have your mouth where your money is does not always apply especially with politics and national economy talks. Tax payers are not adequately informed and have little or no influence regarding use and sources of public finances.
In the stakeholder matrix, ordinary taxpayers have lot of interest and very little or no influence over what is collected in their good name.
At the national economic and financial powerhouse cash flow is directed and managed on behalf of ordinary taxpayers and those in charge command greater influence.
With diverse priorities, conflicting interests, we all have stakes over state of the national economy and healthy cash flow.
For some of us, just having enough to meet cost of daily square meals is enough. For others, the ambition and passion to amass excess above everyone else overshadow any rationale to see fair distribution.
A stable economy and healthy cash flow is responsibility of those who make crucial decisions particularly involving public welfare. Those who regulate the economy and manage public resources including finances have real heavy burden on their shoulders. They are paid to keep the economic superstructure and entire financial system in proper balance.
Tax is collected from various sources and meant to be distributed back in recycled scheme of benefits. Everywhere around the country, tax collectors are busy chasing everyone to ensure the last coin in value is captured.
People in employment have income tax deducted direct from their earnings. There are other forms of taxable revenue that the system taps on. That is why the national treasury as financial power of government holds plenty of money all in the good name of the population.
Collection of tax is so compelling without the occasion to negotiate. Redistribution of benefits is where some amount of unfairness comes to play. Those from whom taxes are collected seldom get involved or even consulted during planning and allocation. They have very little influence and hardly their priorities and felt needs are considered.
Value and cost of votes
Voting comes within intervals and taken so much for granted. If only we all knew the true value of our votes, rules of engagement would have changed with goal posts shifted. Each voter is only looking at a single token or voter’s card. Real cost and value of votes does not appear of concern.
Reality is that through votes politicians are being employed. Votes give the political post holder legal mandate to represent and decide for everyone including those who refused voting for them.
When you vote, it is an occasion by which your voice and bargaining power is surrendered. You are readily telling someone to speak, decide, and act for your community.
It costs the vote seeker next to nothing to take full control over you and everyone else. The benefits are enormous but are you getting yours in return proportionately?
National Treasury, the Money Powerhouse
After all the tax is collected, government provides safe custody at the financial powerhouse better known as the national treasury. Not all the money is stacked at the same building and dished out to where it is due. Some of the money sits at the Central Bank while part of the money value remains not in any physical token but on record or by paper claim to possession.
The important point is that government collects taxes from the public through various designated agencies and institutions. Area councils, income tax, employers and other tax collecting bodies take all the time to ensure their collection pot is never empty.
Upon collecting so much money from the public and taking full custody of what belongs to everyone, the most appropriate duty is making sure everyone gets fair share of benefits.
No matter the economic system being capitalism, socialism, or strictly religious high command of taxation, money from the public is meant to serve best shared interests. Unfortunately, while people are willing to pay taxes or get it imposed on them, the hands that collect are reluctant to distribute fair enough.
Moment of frank talk is long overdue. Tax collectors and custodians need to set the stage for open dialogue with all stakeholders fairly represented. The money sitting in that national treasury is there in the good name of everyone. Fair and even distribution is obligatory on the part of those keeping custody.
Government Revenue Sources and Uses
Public roads, schools, hospitals, electric power generators, and other state provided amenities are not free gifts to people. What the government collects as tax from various sources is meant to be used in providing public goods and services.
Some members of the public may not know that government also borrows money to be paid over long or short periods. From national television and radio broadcasts news comes up that so much money is being signed for as loan or grant.
Money borrowed by a sitting government may have to be paid by another in the case of regime change. It is people of the nation who carry the burden. Change of hands at government does not always mean change of system.
All the loud talk in politics hardly include the economic power of tax payers and how that keeps a nation going. Some of the sources of government revenue comes through invisible traces.
Consider a situation where farmers and other labour-intensive workers have no bargaining power over their crops or goods. Who sets the prices and how do we know that all the long hours of hard toiling work deserve only hand to mouth selling price after harvest market? These are matters of critical interest in political economic relations.
In worse situations, government empowers profiteering traders to pay less for more; leaving poor farmers and producers get poorer. Good governments provide subsidies and other economic incentives including tax breaks or duty waivers for import of required machinery and equipment.
Most importantly, the tax payer public deserves to know and to participate as active partners in national development not docile stakeholders.
Why President and Ministers get higher pay than farmers?
Democracy promises more than what obtains. It is not always a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Many nations boasting of democracy only use voting rights while suppressing other rights. It ends up with government of the people by the few and for the few.
Exactly why some civil servants, ministers, and the president are paid higher than our village farmers is not based on hard work. For all we know, the village farmer toils much harder yet receiving lesser financial rewards.
In their line of duty, civil servants, Ministers, and the President are paid from public coffers to enable them serve in the collective not personal benefit. Beyond the call to duty there is high moral obligation for the President, Ministers and civil servants to do exceedingly well in serving best public interest.
Being provided with fully furnished office space, free telephone, free cars, and extra helping hands is enough inducement to keep someone committed. It is sad that with all that is provided some of our public office holders still want more while performing less.
We understand that every person wants something extra but that is no good reason to encroach on others. If you are paid from state coffers, it is because of service to the nation. Taking undue advantage of access to resources abusing official power is politically incorrect and morally wrong.
People want to be served and those placed in position of public service have obligation to meet their part of the bargain by unflinching commitment to duty.
Cutting down maintenance cost from the top
Having no bargaining power to negotiate how much our political representatives get remunerated diminishes any prospects that tax payers can influence the debate. Somewhere at the top someone got to be fair and bold enough to bring this important matter on the negotiating table.
Politics does not have to be a fast track avenue to becoming rich at heavy cost to rest of us. We don’t expect politicians to cut their own throat by imposing a reduction on maintenance cost. It will however be reasonable to consider bridging the gap so that ordinary people have lesser burden.
Difficulty in cutting down the maintenance cost from the top begins where legislation is so protective in favour of those at the very top.
Laws are made to defend possession rights of top ranking persons with power and influence. There is hardly any sensible economic justification for keeping a pool of public servants on routine keyboard duties and other none essentials. It is also not all line managers and their chain operatives that serve any value adding purpose to warrant their increasing cost.
For there to be more sustainable advancement the top is required to deal with its own cut. It takes certain amount of courage to decide cost cutting from the top by those at the top.
Political control is power over resources for which prudent allocation requires total fairness on the part of those who decide for everyone.
Politics is not meant to be business of profit making but gains can be multiplied by significant difference with deep cuts to maintenance cost especially from the top by the those at the top. Tougher legislation is required which subjects those at the top to manage with reasonable minimum while maximising collective gains for optimal satisfaction on the part of everyone.
Consider the amount of money that is allocated towards maintaining the system compared to health, agriculture, education, youth employment, child welfare, rural development, maternal care, and other most pressing needs.
Something needs to be done about excess baggage that the systems carries onboard without any benefit of value adding results.
By occasion of voluntary sanctions, cutting the maintenance cost from the few at the top will provide enough buffer grounds for majority at bottom and middle levels to enjoy sustainable livelihood so much needed. The question everyone ask is whether the top will ever commit efforts in bringing cost down with charity beginning at home.