, 2010 (STAR) By Edith Regalado – Filipino workers here have asked presidential frontrunner Sen. Benigno Aquino III to create more jobs and opportunities in the country so they would not have to seek greener pastures abroad.

“Our hope is for the new government to create more jobs in the country so that there would be no more need for Filipinos to go and work abroad,” said Milagros Ladra, a 44-year old native of Davao City who started working as a domestic helper since 1992.

Jobs back home should pay an equal salary if not higher than what they are receiving abroad, according to Ladra, who started out in Singapore and subsequently moved to Hong Kong.

Ladra said OFWs in Hong Kong pin their hope on Aquino to their woes, particularly on the matter of unscrupulous practices by some recruitment agencies.

“We would want the new government to also make a massive assessment and check on all the existing recruitment agencies because most of these agencies have been charging the OFWs exorbitant placement fees, she said.

Delfa Tacuban, another Filipina worker, said recruitment fees have been so exorbitant to the extent that OFWs sell their properties and borrow money with high interests, and end up receiving meager salaries.

“What is worst is when the OFWs arrive here in Hong Kong and then happen to be immediately fired by their employers and their contracts terminated within five days,” she said.

“We hope the new government would help to make sure that all the provisions in the OFW contract shall be followed and complied with by the employers in providing a conducive environment for the OFWs to work,” she said.

Ladra expressed hope that the next administration could do something about the plight of abused and maltreated OFWs in Hong Kong.

The number of OFWs in Hong Kong has dwindled to 120,000 from more than 200,000 due to competition from Indonesian workers who are willing to work for lower salaries.


Tipping the salary scale TAKIN' CARE OF BUSINESS By Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) Updated June 01, 2010 12:00 AM

There was an interesting front page article at The Philippine STAR yesterday that soon-to-be President Benigno Aquino III or PBA III will be getting a basic salary of P95,000 or P38,000 more than what PGMA is currently getting. Compared to the salaries of presidents and CEOs in the private sector, the amount is definitely peanuts for the man who will be running a country of over a million civil servants including the police and military.

Last year, GMA signed a joint Senate and House resolution increasing the salaries of government employees via the Salary Standardization Law 3 which implements the adjustments on a staggered basis over the next four years. By 2011, PBA III’s basic salary will be P107,000 and in 2012, it will tip the scales at P120,000. As for the vice president, he will get P79,000-plus when he assumes office, with the figure reaching P103,000 by 2012.

It can be recalled that during the campaign period, PBA III said that increasing the pay of civil servants would help discourage corruption – and this perspective is shared by other leaders like the Deputy Finance Minister of Kelantan, a state in Malaysia, who is mulling a pay hike for over one million civil servants. According to Datuk Awang Adek Hussein, the pay increase is critical in ensuring the success of the so-called “New Economic Model” that would transform the country into a high-income economy, citing the success of Singapore that “shifted to a high-income economy several years ago by setting high pay for civil servants which has succeeded in improving its economic performance.”

Indeed, the experience of Singapore is cited by many as an excellent example of transformation in just a few decades after it gained independence in 1965. During that time, Singapore was characterized by massive unrest mainly due to unemployment. By the 1980s, the Singapore government concentrated on attracting talented men and women into the civil service, making the salary of government employees competitive to that of private sector standards by the early ‘90s.

In fact, the salaries of Singapore ministers are some of the highest in the world, with the Prime Minister getting six times more than the $400,000 yearly salary of the US president. Part of the success lies in the business-like approach of government, like its state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that are run entirely on a commercial/profit basis with professional managers taking care of day-to-day operations. And if these SOEs fail to make profits, the government does not hesitate to close them down.

Obviously, the high salaries have done a lot to curb corruption in Singapore, ranked as the least corrupt in Asia-Pacific and the third least corrupt in the world. Add to that the fact that good performers are rewarded through various bonuses as well as promotions and other incentives. The government is also very strict and will not hesitate to employ the harshest punishments to those found violating anti-corruption laws, with the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau tasked to prosecute erring officials.

If the Philippines wants efficient service from its civil servants, then it should take a leaf from the experience of Singapore. Everyone knows the low salary of government employees – from teachers to police and the military – is one of the main reasons why these people are compelled to look for alternative means to supplement their meager pay. This is also part of the reason why you see very little enthusiasm for work from low-level bureaucrats and clerks who waste so much time texting or chatting on the phone regardless of the growing line of people in front of them.

Analysts also point to the bloated bureaucracy as a big problem, with excess personnel, NPAs or non-performing assets and civil service ineligibles eating up a lot of the budget allocated for salaries. Many of these are undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, advisers and administrative assistants for various department heads with overlapping functions whose work can be done by one or two competent employees. Obviously, this is also one area where government can trim the fat, so to speak.

On the other hand, the reason why many people want to become public officials is due to the fact that the low basic pay is compensated by a number of perks. For instance, congressmen currently get a little less than P60,000 monthly salary. However, members of the House of Representatives are entitled to a Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF – the current incarnation of the pork barrel – of P70 million per year, while Senators have a P200 million allocation.

The president meanwhile has close to a billion in intelligence funds and other confidential and discretionary funds, aside from the President’s Social Fund – all of which do not require usual auditing procedures. These funds and how they are used (like foreign trips for instance) have long been a source of criticism from anti-GMA groups.

If what I am told is true about the simple lifestyle and preferences of PBA III who supposedly drives around in a Honda and likes simple food like “bulalo” from a favorite nondescript restaurant in Buendia, then a P95,000 monthly salary will most likely be enough for his needs – giving a good indication that his new administration will probably run the country with simple, austere ways.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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