There is bad news for the youth of this country. More so for those who are waiting to graduate from tertiary institutions this year but have no idea about how to start own businesses.
This week, government announced it would, with immediate effect, put a cap on recruitment and promotion. Freezing promotions because government wants to save money is wrong. But I will talk about it later. The freeze on recruitment follows the poor performance of the 2017/18 National Budget. In a circular dated March 23 2018 to all controlling officers and heads of departments, the Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara also announced other cost-saving measures ranging from travel and fuel expenditures.
In fact, those who have been in the Civil Service long enough know that the announcement on cost-saving measures is not new. It is like an annual event. Almost every year, there is such an announcement. But government is always long on announcing new measures and short in enforcing them.
A story is told about a Malawi Government official and a representative of a donor country who were flying in the same aircraft heading to a donors’ meeting. At the meeting, the Malawi official was to ask for aid from the government of the donor representative he was travelling with on the aircraft. The irony of it is that the donor representative is flying economy class while the Malawi official is in business class. Who really should be flying business class—the donor or the beggar? The quick answer from the Malawi official would be that it is in his conditions of service to fly business class. But strictly speaking, the problem is that he is in a system which does not have its priorities right.
I guess that is what the Public Service Reform Programme (PSRP) was supposed to change. Many things need reform. Only last week President Peter Mutharika urged new graduates at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) to change their mindset and stop thinking about farming as a job for the uneducated. One wishes the PSRP would have put the country on a trajectory to achieve this.
Hundreds of nurses and midwives are unemployed or unemployable. They can’t be employed because even after passing University of Malawi examinations with flying colours, they have not made the grade for the Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi. What does this say for the system of training nurses and midwives in the country? This is just one of the many anomalies we have in this country across professions.
But that is not all, when government freezes recruitment against the alarming shortage of nurses in public hospitals, something must be very wrong. A mindset change is indeed imperative from the policy level down to the operatives.
What hope is government giving to new graduates when they cannot be absorbed into the Civil Service—which traditionally—is supposed to be the biggest employer?
This year, the first cohort of youths equipped with skills from the various community colleges will be ready to go into industry. But with an ailing private sector which is downsizing, and with no start-up capital, their only hope is that government will absorb them. But where do they go when government shuts the door to them?
Back to the freeze on promotions in the public service. What is the effect of telling people that, however, hard they work, they will not be rewarded? Promotions serve a purpose. One of them is to improve productivity. When you put a blanket recommendation that no-one should be rewarded regardless of how hard they work, you are putting a cap on productivity. Result is the wrong image that the Civil Service has. The Civil Service has one of the most educated cadres. But more often than not those who work hard are not well rewarded for their work ethic. Change the work ethic; promote diligence and hard work among the various cadres.