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12 February, 2020 11:25:28 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 12 February, 2020 11:27:38 AM

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Causes and consequences of merging economic cadre with administration cadre

The economic cadre officials have now received opening to be posted to positions equivalent to their seniority and ranks and get opportunity to act as generalist, maintain law and order, collect land revenue, perform magistracy function, etc.
Md Osman Ali
Causes and consequences of merging economic cadre with administration cadre

Bangladesh Planning Commission, a central planning organisation is responsible for formulating overall socioeconomic development plans and programme of the country. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave highest priority to a necessary institutional framework for these activities and established the super ministry entitled 'Bangladesh Planning Commission.  It was composed of the officials in different fields.

Since inception in 1972 the Planning commission has been recognized as a high level professional organization and performing responsibility in respect of Development Planning/Strategy.

The then Planning Minister, and Member, General Economic Division, planning commission  did not agree to inclusion of planning commission’s officials in the BCS cadre 1980, due to apprehension of weakening of the planning commission’ proficiency. However BCS Economic cadre was subsequently formed with 267 Planning commission’s official including 40 officers for different ministries. Later on the cadre strength increased to 530 due to subsequent inclusion of IMED and some ERD officials.

 Bangladesh has now civil services with 27 cadres to perform distinct function across the public sector according to allocation business of ministries/divisions. Out of these BCS admin is mostly field based general cadre while BCS economic is national head quarter based specialized cadre .  Economic cadre officials are groomed by particular standard of education and training that make them specialist in identifying development goals, strategies and policy measures and preparing development plan, process projects etc. Hence the planning commission composed of these Economic cadre officials stood as professional organization

The government has merged two distinct cadres of the civil service - admin and economic to reduce inequality faced by economic cadre official in promotions, allowances, other facilities i.e. Interest free car loan etc.  Officials BCS Economic cadres are now considered as that of BCS admin cadre. It was necessary to scrutinize whether Admin cadre official have the technical knowledge and skills to discharge enhanced responsibilities in development plan. There is a doubt whether government, before abolishing economic cadre, consulted with public service commission required under artcle140 (2) of the constitution,

The economic cadre officials have now received opening to be posted to positions equivalent to their seniority and ranks and get opportunity to act as generalist, maintain law and order, collect land revenue, perform magistracy function, etc. Similarly Admn cadre officials will be posted to positions in the economic cadre. There are surplus officers in Admn cadre promoted on political consideration in the absence of vacant posts without complying rule and regulation and   considering merit, skill and honesty. Since there is no clearly defined policy for the transfer and posting of Civil servants, there is nothing to be surprised if there are postings of three Additional Secretaries in   place of one Division Chief (Ali Imam Majumder, Prothom Alo 25/1/2017),  more than one Joint Secretary and Deputy Secretary in the position of one Joint Chief and Deputy chief respectively. As a result they would not have specific job responsibility or even any proper office room to sit. Hence uncertainty and irregularity may arise in performing job responsibility in formulation of development strategies, preparation of macro and sectoral plan, project processing and monitoring which require professional skill and knowledge.

 In fact amalgamation of civil service does not facilitate better management rather creates anomaly in services. According to Shawkat Ali, in his book ‘Bangladesh Civil service’ 2009 P 98) the Industrial Management Service, 1973 merged with Administration cadre led to anomalies in the field of administration. Thus there will be skill – job mismatch between Admn cadre official’s skill and knowledge and specific job requirement in the planning commission, as a result inefficiency and inability to plan and manage the development activity   would be inevitable.

These kind of absorption, if any, is followed for benefit of personnel by merging Bangladesh Boarder Guard with Bangladesh Army, Ansar cadre with that of Police, Taxation cadre with that of Custom and Excise, PWD cadre with that of Road and Highway and so on, the purpose of allocating as well as transacting government business by different ministries will be disrupted. One school of ‘Organizational   Behavior’ views that personnel aspect is one of major elements for an organization, but organization is greater than its personnel. Personnel issues, when arises in organization, is to be solved by ‘Hiring and Firing’ system at the interest of an organization.

Government could address the personnel issues by removing inequality in promotion, allowances, and other facilities without merging it with the Administration cadre. When achieving   the social and economic outcomes of the vision 2021 and Sustainable Development Goal are main government agenda 2030, preparing plan and processing big project will be the planning commission’s prime responsibility. It was, therefore, necessary to increase further the efficiency of the economic cadre officials. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. The professionalism of the planning commission is now likely going to be eroded due to personnel issues

The official  belonging to Administration cadre may not be able to keep pace   with    development vision 2130 in formulation strategy of future development plan and project processing, because  different studies says that  the overall quality and efficiency of the administration is not satisfactory. Politicization is an obstacle to increasing work ethic and professionalism. In such perspective it is difficult to uphold planning commission’s professionalism developed in last 46 years by specific knowledge and skills of its officials. Once Planning Commission’s professionalism will no more be prolonged and deteriorated automatically   through usual retirement, resignation and death of  different cohort of   official of existing Economic cadre, Bangabandu’s once  super ministry may be  turned into a Directorate of Planning Division and resting place for OSD  who will be drawing their salary without doing anything.  Thus the planning commission would be completely consultant- based organization to formulate development plan etc wherein there would be lack of participation of   stakeholders and beneficiaries in planning process. This will ultimately lead to low level implementation and benefits accrued from development plan at the grass root level

In this backdrop new thinking would be given how to fill up vacuum in the planning commission’ professionalism. Hence a high level committee for civil administration is to be formed to redesign institutional structure of planning commission that steer properly long term development vision in the country.  Firstly, according to Ali Imam Majumder   one group of Admn officials can be separated to perform planning related work after recruitment and experienced in field and secretariat. The officials having aptitude to develop expertise in formulation of development plan and project can be placed under the planning commission permanently.

 Secondly Government may take initiative to restore  expertise of planning commission keeping in view  its    original high profile professionals (Deputy Chairman with status of Minister, Members with the status of State Minister and Division Chiefs with status of Secretary)  needed  by different sector division  in 1972. The planning commission can, therefore, be manned by professional by deputation from Admin cadre as suggested Mr Majumder and direct recruitment with provision of higher status and a good compensation package (like  starting salary TK 455/ for Research officer, TK 750/ for Assistant Chief compared to Tk 375/ for Assistant commissioner/ Section Officer,   TK 1600/ for Deputy chief compared Tk 850/ for Deputy Secretary before initiation of the National Pay scale, 1973) compared to other  civil servants

 However, extensive deliberation is needed about the pros and cons   to assess the significance to protect the planning commission as professional organization. Here, the stakeholder especially Development Planner, economist. Social scientists and others needs to play a more proactive role in pushing forward the reform agenda.

    

The writer is Retired Joint Chief,

 Planning Commission

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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