Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bureaucrat Bashing

Bureaucrat bashing is as Kiwi as criticising the All Black coach. But to see Treasury boss John Whitehead – a bureaucrat himself - wading in to slam the public service is a bit rough. There is this mantra that private is good, public is bad.

The recession is not the fault of the public service. Indeed, had there been more public servants with greater teeth some of the extravagant excesses of the private sector might have been curbed.

Of course in hard times the public service must do its fair share to lighten the burden. But blanket criticism of it does not help. Most public servants I know are decent, hard-working folk. They do an honest day’s – sometimes night’s – work.

Does Whitehead plan to lay off teachers, nurses, treasury officials? Privatise prisons? From what I gather from overseas experience that has not improved efficiency. Politicians often assume fat in the system. I noticed in this year’s Budget that there was no cut in ministerial services. Maybe they should look at Parliament to make their first cut.

From 1984 to 1993 Treasury advice governed government policy. Maybe Whitehead’s comments are a harbinger of things to come.

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