Trimming the fat | BusinessMirror

When you have a huge debt, say, as heavy as P12.76 trillion, you can sharply see everything that can potentially lighten the burden—including the elephant in the room. This elephant must be good at hiding itself because it remained unseen for decades. No Malacañang occupant ever saw it, except the new tenant who wants to banish it.

The Marcos administration plans to “rightsize” the bloated bureaucracy to ensure effective governance. By eliminating redundancy and inefficiency in all government offices, the country can save at least P14.8 billion a year, according to the Department of Budget and Management.

DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman believes in the wisdom of the administration’s plan to “rightsize” government agency processes and personnel to streamline the bureaucracy’s functions and potentially cut operational costs. She said they are now currently studying which among the 187 government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations, with more or less 2-million personnel, may be streamlined through merging, restructuring or abolition (Read, “DBM refining details of government plan to ‘rightsize’ agencies,” in the BusinessMirror, July 13, 2022).

The proposal for rightsizing excludes teaching and teaching-related positions, medical and allied medical positions or those in the health sector, and the military as well as other uniformed personnel, the DBM chief said.

The term “rightsizing” emerged in the 1990s when companies were trying to cut the number of employees in their workforce through careful planning and organizing of tasks, skills, and outcomes. The euphemism carries a simple message: We are recalibrating our operations to achieve our long-term goals through an approach by which we stop paying lots of you.

In government, rightsizing refers to the power of an external force that jolts public servants from their existing state of inertia after a wonderful discovery that the bureaucracy is, in fact, wrong-sized. In other words, the human load in government has grown too heavy for taxpayers to carry.

The move to “rightsize” a “wrong-sized” bureaucracy is good because government inefficiency imposes unnecessary costs on all of us. The DBM chief said: “The overarching objective of this is to have a smaller bureaucracy that is agile and responsive to modern times. In addition, this program will fix agencies that have repetitive functions or overlapping functions.”

There are 1,597,973 career employees and 157,451 non-career employees in government, according to the Civil Service Commission. At least 449,748 workers are under job orders and 132,630 more are in contract service in some government offices.

What is hard to understand is the fact that there are 177,994 vacant permanent positions in government. Two possible answers: Hiring managers are waiting for “suitable” applicants to fill up these permanent positions, or, nobody among the 582,378 job order and contract of service workers who have been working in government offices for years are qualified to get a permanent job.

Senator Sonny Angara, reacting to the DBM’s plan to ask Congress to give President Marcos authority to rightsize the bureaucracy, said it’s about time for the government to do this as some agencies might have already finished their mandate. He also backed Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III’s proposal to include the Senate and the House of Representatives in the administration’s plan to rightsize the bureaucracy. “The entire government should be included in the rightsizing efforts. I think there should be no exemptions,” he said.

To protect the government employees that might be displaced by the administration’s rightsizing move, Angara said the government must offer reasonable benefits. He said the dissolution or merging of government agencies should not be done overnight considering the current challenging economic environment. “Affected employees should be advised two or three years before the rightsizing takes effect because it is hard for some of them to find jobs,” Angara said.

Livio Di Matteo is a Canadian economist specializing in public policy, health economics, public finance and economic history. In his book, Measuring Government in the 21st Century, he presents evidence that large government can hurt economic growth. Presenting a vast array of international evidence that show lessons to be learned in providing efficient government services, he said governments would do well to seek examples of how to provide more and better services while reducing the cost to the tax-paying public.

Let’s all support the Marcos administration’s plan to rightsize the bureaucracy, and hope that a smaller government could achieve better outcomes for the Filipino people.

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