Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Hands up who's experienced great public service
It's a given that we all have differing experiences in dealing with public services in South Africa, but I've recently been very impressed by how far we've come. In the last two months I've had plenty of dealings with home affairs, with CIPRO, Telkom and the electricity services, all of which have been fantastic. I've found all who I've dealt with to be very professional, courteous and timeous, and I must say, my expectations have been exceeded on each count. We love to bitch and moan in SA, and public service is usually our favourite bugbear, but if we consider a few years ago, trying to renew a passport, or trying to sign up for a Telkom account, the level of service has improved dramatically.

Public services are obviously top of mind at present with the looming national strike tabled for Thursday. Whilst the public services unions are looking for 7%, government is offering a 6% increase and a further perfromance clause 1%. So why are they fighting over 1% here or there? Well, there are around 1.1 million workers in the public sector, so if you extrapolate the numbers on that 1%, it's a scary burden on government's budget, let alone a dangerous prospect for the government's 6% inflation target. (The actual figure in the 1% difference is R1-Billion for those who want to know) Some in the media are already suggesting that government will need to raise taxes to fill the shortfall.

So where do I stand? I suppose I'm caught between a rock and a hard place, because I do think that public services have been radically improved in the last five years, but I also don't like the implications on the economy of that additional 1%. I like the performance clause in the Public Services Minister Fraser-Moleketi's proposal, so I'll side with government and say that the unions should agree to it. We can certainly do without 800 000 public servants on the loose...