In an article by Mario Reljanovic, published on January 15th 2015, we found out that, around New Year, different ministries sent requests to all “beneficiaries of public funds” (i.e. organizations, institutions and bodies of local self-governments) to submit the number of employees (the lists of names will obviously be submitted at a later stage) who will be fired by June 2015. After reading the material which was sent directly to “the heads” of these institutions, we can conclude that the total number of employees has to be reduced by 6.5%. Although the total number of people employed in the public sector has not yet been determined, educated assessments based on available data give the number 800.000 (however, there are indications that this number can be higher by as much as 200.000), which would mean that, in the next four months, no less than 50.000 people would find themselves jobless. Whether this number includes those who will retire or not, remains unclear.
Reljanovic explained, primarily from a legal point of view, what is wrong with this request, because it is practically the only aspect that can be analyzed with credence on the basis of the text alone. He legitimately pointed out the unreasonably short deadline the managers and directors were given to provide the information requested. However, we are interested in the following: who received this request? Has it arrived to all institutions, or has the government already pre-selected institutions which will be excluded? If this is the case, it would be good to know what criteria were used for this process. This is related to the “infamous” 6.5%. How was this percentage reached, if the exact number of employees in the public sector (800.000 plus 200.000?) has not yet been determined, as well as the number of state institutions (around 10.000)? Is this the overall reduction which has to be carried out, and the same request was sent to everyone? Or is the overall reduction lower, and some institutions have not received this request?
If everyone has received the same request, that is, if the reduction is linear, the whole thing is pure nonsense and must be abandoned immediately. Let’s forget, for a moment, about municipalities, the bodies of local self-government, which immediately come to mind when excessive number of public servants is mentioned. Let’s consider healthcare or police, or, for example, firemen? It is well known that there is a lack of personnel in these services on some positions: will they also be included in the 6.5%? As to municipalities, will 6.5% be requested both in places where people were hired in accordance with procedure and real needs, and in places where so many were hired, that offices were lacking chairs and work desks?
If a selection has been made, and the request was sent only to chosen institutions, the question must be asked – who has made this selection, how were they competent to do so, how much time did it take, what is the end goal? Has this selection been carried out in secrecy, as was the manner in which the request was delivered? If this is the case, maybe now is the last moment to find out who was in charge of this selection. This is, among other things, an important aspect of the legitimacy of the entire endeavor of so-called rationalization. If rules have already been violated, and if it appears that the entire process was carried out within the shadows, maybe the masterminds behind it are capable of rationally explaining why this had to be done. If an explanation is not offered, we can reach only one conclusion: the condition imposed by the IMF will be met by the incumbent government by strengthening the discipline amongst its followers, and getting even with its opponents. A move which, from the outside, appears as a well-intended move, is internally used to further strengthen a bad government.
Another dimension in this darkness where we can only feel the shapes of the underground moves made by the government is particularly interesting – the general silence of everyone included in this operation. If we assume that the request was also received by those municipalities where people in charge are not members of the ruling coalition, the question is why they are keeping silent? If the tables and directions accompanying the request have reached the deans of public universities, why are they keeping silent? If the request has reached the “beneficiaries of public funds in Vojvodina”, why isn’t the provincial government saying anything? We can assume that none of them have received the request, and thus have no reason to speak out. Or, alternatively, that they are all in accordance with the decision of the government, and are thus obediently and silently implementing it.
However, this whole endeavor actually has nonsense, and silence cannot be justifiable under any condition. 6.5% means nothing. Reducing the number of employees in the public sector by 6.5% can yield different results (especially when the exact number is not know, nor is the sum of their salaries), thus, we must ask – what is the goal? If we fire 6.5% of employees working for the lowest wages, than the financial benefit is minimal. If the best paid are fired, than the necessary savings can be achieved with a lower percentage of employees fired. Some may say that people cannot be fired just like that, and that the job importance and work productivity have to be taken into account. This is correct. This is why the linear request to fire 6.5% of employees is completely senseless. And everybody is silently taking part in this senselessness. I can picture, for example, the deans of faculties walking through the halls of their institutions in the eve of the New Year holidays and considering who should be “dumped”, while, at the same time, offering polite smiles and holiday wishes. Or hospital managers secretly deciding about “redundancies” without consultations with their colleagues. And I wonder if this small share of satisfied malice is the compensation for the silence in which Serbia is willingly sinking.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic