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Tajikistan to cut government payroll by 15%
Following presidential orders to streamline and improve operations, the Civil Service Administration has been working to identify exactly where to make cuts.
By Dilafruz Nabiyeva
DUSHANBE – The Tajikistan Civil Service Administration (CSA) in September began laying people off from their jobs as part of a downsizing campaign aimed at reducing the government workforce by 15%, officials said.
The move came after President Emomali Rakhmon in his April 20 address to parliament called for a reduction of bureaucratic spending.
Rakhmon ordered the review of structure and personnel lists of all ministries, governmental agencies and local executive bodies in order to identify and eliminate redundant positions, administer pay reductions, and redefine some positions as part-time jobs.
CSA's Kumri Azizova, chief of the Qualification Requirement and Salary Department, spoke with Central Asia Online about its work to carry out the presidential orders.
"It's based on our report that the president decreed the 15% reduction of the government payroll," she said, adding that its inspection showed many administrative functions to overlap.
"It (the inefficiency) went as far as appointing two additional officials to do a third one's job," Azizova said. "Clearly, those two (redundant) positions have to be scrapped – it’s not just a staffing matter but a waste of spending on salaries."
Upon examining itself, Azizova’s department laid off five of its workers based on the findings, she said.
"Giving civil servants additional incentives (to do better work) remains a major goal," CSA chief Radzhab Odinayev said.
Compensation offered to those laid off
The government has no clear-cut procedure for selecting candidates to lay off – every decision is individual, he said. For those laid off, CSA is offering three months' salary as severance while others are offered continued work in different positions.
Rakhmon said streamlining the government payroll would help fund social welfare and the technological retooling of ministries and government agencies, according to Odinayev.
Primary-school teacher Shodimurod Tursunov supported the decision to reduce the government’s workforce, even though he is losing his job after working for 50 years.
"We badly need younger teachers at schools," he said.
Speaking about his own situation, he said he understood why he lost his job.
"I'm supposed to learn some computer skills today – something I can't, I'm simply unable, to do. And I do feel ashamed to see my 5-year-old grandson handling the computer easily," he said. "So, I understand I must step aside now to make room for younger workers."
Competitive environment promotes responsibility
When it comes to looming dismissals, workers always grow more responsible, Association of Political Scientists of Tajikistan head Abdugani Mamadazimov told Central Asia Online.
"Any reform measure that primarily is tied to layoffs mobilises people," he said. "Reforms stir up (dormant) bureaucrats and cause them to compete for the position."
"Authorities are coming to understand that funds wasted on redundant personnel might be spent more wisely – for example, on a ministry's full-scale computerisation," he said.
"We do need change, but there must be a team of experienced professionals within any administrative structure, whether we like it or not … but not on such a scale or with as many officials as we see today," Mamadazimov said, adding that, "Old-timers must learn to step down to clear the way for young talent."
The effects of the downsizing will depend on how it is implemented, political scientist Parviz Mullodzhanov said.
Those ordering personnel cuts should be guided above all "by the principle of maximum efficiency – specifically concerning the assignment of several officials to fulfil one and the same function," Mullodzhanov said.
"Civil service should be downsized once every few years," he added. Entire ministries should go, argued MP Shodi Shabdolov.
"There are 14 ministries in Tajikistan today, versus only 11 in, say, Japan," he said.
It is important to ensure that civil service reductions stem from actual need, rather than from protection of family or regional interests, economist Rustam Samiyev said, adding, "Otherwise, we might lose the last skilled personnel we still have."