The Government of Liberia says it has planned to layoff about 4000 employees, suspends new recruitment programs at ministries and agencies throughout the country amidst a debate over a new measure to harmonize civil servants’ salaries here.The current number of government employees is around 72,000, while the actual number of civil servants on government payroll is about 43, 800. The rest of the 28, 200 are individuals who were one way or the other recruited through political connections and were being pay through the allowance system.
As the country’s national budget stands, 56 % of the US$530 million accounts for salaries alone, while the remaining 44% are spread over foreign and domestic debts, social benefits, subsidies, developmental projects among others.This comes at the time the economic situation in the country gets tougher as the government struggles to put in place austerity measures to reduce its wage bill.
Mr. James A. Thompson, Deputy Director General at the Civil Service Agency told senior journalist sat a retreat here Tuesday that the new salary harmonization scheme would put an end to the various kinds of allowances into one salary-meaning those in government employ who had only benefited from special allowances will now be placed on the payroll discouraging the allowance system which had been implemented at the discretions of ministers and heads of government agencies to bloat the numbers of government employees.
He said at present the planned harmonization program is intended to harmonize salaries across the central government over a projected period of time. By this it means if a director earn a total of say USD 3000 per month that amount will be reduced by about US$1000 putting his final salary at 2000, while another who is at the same level but earns say USD$500, will be reduced by 5%.
He said over a protracted period the employee with the USD475 per month will receive a gradual increase until he is brought on par with the one earning USD2000.“The harmonization is not a full harmonization,” he said adding, “if we were to do a full harmonization it would require about USD180 million to bring every employee at the same level depending on their grade.”
He said with the new system being put in place, it will be difficult for anyone in any of the government sector ministry or agency to carry out a unilateral recruitment as has been done in the past.He said the suspension of the government recruitment means that whenever there is a retirement, there will be no new recruitment rather an upward adjustment of staff.
However, Mr. Thompson indicated that the suspension of recruitment and the downward adjustment in some civil servants’ salaries does not affect the security sector, health and education (teachers).The current salary arrangement shows a huge disparity with some genitors at certain ministries and agencies who were recruited through political connections earning more than what a director at another ministry of agency earns.
Mr. S. Emmanuel Lloyd, Assistant Director Strategy Development and Forecasting at the Budget Policy Section said right now for anyone to get on central government payroll will be very be difficult. He said the retirement of the 4000 employees from government is intended to free the payroll.
Asked while people are complaining about their salaries being drastically cut, he said what civil servants including nurses and doctors are receiving in their salary accounts are 35% of the earnings which are in Liberian Dollars, while the remaining 65% is being pay in United States Dollars and Finance officials have asked those employees without the USD account to open same for the transfer of their USD salary component.
He said while other sectors have been negatively affected the security sector, health and education have receive a boost, saying an extra USD135 has been added across the board for the security officers.By Othello B. Garblah