LAHORE: Unlike Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s quick response to the prime minister’s proposal of extending the retirement age of government servants, Punjab has conveyed to the federal government that it is busy with budget at the moment, and could be able to give its “well considered” view on the issue in July, indicating its intentions to find reasons to disagree, if essential.
A letter from Islamabad had early this week conveyed the prime minister’s proposal of assessing the repercussions of extending the age of retirement of government servants to the federal finance division, asking it to consult the establishment division and Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the issue, seeking a unified report in two days.
The proposal was to be considered by the federal government and the two provinces where the prime minister’s PTI rules.
The letter issued from the prime minister’s office had said that the prime minister desired the (federal) finance secretary to hold consultations with the establishment division and the finance departments of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to evaluate legal, financial and administrative implication of increasing the age of retirement and early retirement.Officials here had said that the proposal could be aimed at deferring the payment of huge amounts of pensions and dues to government officials who retire in bulk every year. An annual around 25,000 government employees retire every year in Punjab alone, adding to the already huge pension and dues bill.
They claimed that the government intended to increase the retirement age to nearly three years. The extension in the minimum age for seeking early retirement, which at present is 25 years, will also help serve the same purpose, they said.
Sources in the Punjab government told Dawn that the provincial finance department has written to the federal finance division its inability to quickly respond to the demand.They said the provincial government wanted to have the idea thoroughly discussed so as to leave no room of any mistake in the final decision that would certainly involve huge financial, human resource and administrative repercussions. “Certainly we are going to minutely work on the proposal in league with the federal government,” an official said.
Other officials said that extending the age of retirement was not a simple issue. It would defer payment of dues and pensions but they would in fact become an unbearable burden after accumulating say, for three years.
Then the extension would block the promotion ladder of the government officials and warrant a ban on new recruitment. The delay in promotions would leave a negative impact on the government servants and might invite litigation from them. “And what would the qualified young people do in the meantime if not given jobs for three years? It would mean retaining old stock at the cost of fresh human resource equipped with the latest technology. Mind it we have over 50 per cent below 35 years of age population,” said an official.
He said the government might involve all stakeholders concerned to reach a right decision while assessing all financial, legal and social implications of the issue. “Isn’t it better to avoid a step that could involve legal implications,” he said.
Some other senior officials said that the ever-growing huge pension bill was certainly a problem for the entire country. But it could better be handled by efficient investment of the pension fund, seeking more profits to foot the bill.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2019