Afghanistan is a poverty-stricken country that unemployment is one of the factors that significantly contribute and exacerbate the rate of poverty in Afghanistan. However, it troubles me to assert that even many of those who are employed, live a rudimentary and primeval lifestyle. They live hand to mouth. 8am reports Abdullah Irfan, a grade 6 employee in the Ministry of Education, who earns 6,000 Afs per month to support his family of six. This vividly suggests that Abdullah Irfan and each of his family members live on 33 Afs, which is less than $0.50, a day.
The Afghan Ministry of Finance proposed the salary-increment plan for the government employees, to the cabinet of the government of Afghanistan, on 28 Qaws 1397. The Spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance, in a press conference, announced the objective for adopting such a measure is to equalize salaries, retain qualified people, recruit new professionals, significantly reduce contract employees. He added that this would help to lift the low-ranking employees from the poverty line and to regulate financial stability. However, the plan would reduce up to 53% of the salary of high-ranking including ministers, deputy ministers, general directors, directors and other employees being paid on the NTA scale.
Despite the large-scale corruption on board, and brittle legislative foundations in Afghanistan and the fact that many institutions in Afghanistan are policy-makers, not implementers, the plan may light a candle of hope in the hearts of the myriad people like Irfan, but at the same time ignite a sense of superiority and resistance in the hearts of people whose 53% of salary would be shrunk. The adoption of such a measure would give rise to a series of legal issues that may add up to the formidable challenges of the implementation of this proposed plan.
Perhaps the most challenging obstacle to the implementation of the salary uniforming plan would be the complexity of the labor system in Afghanistan. The two types of government namely civil servants and political appointees unequivocally pose a threat to the enforcement of the plan. This is because it is beyond the authorities of the Ministry of Finance and the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Servants Commission to decide on the salary and extra privileges of political appointees of the president under Article 64 of the Afghan constitution, which solely allows the president to designate ministers, attorney general and all those positions that fall under Fawq, Mafawq, and Kharij Rutba (Civil workers ranking in the Afghan government). Therefore, from a legal perspective, high-ranking government officials, falls beyond the scope of application of the salary uniforming plan, targeting only 1st Grade to 8th Grade employees and contract employees.
A sound mind with a clear observation strongly points out the fact that the plan, if enforced, would not attain the expected efficiency and outcome. This is because the salary and privileges provided for KHARIJ-RUTBA and a 1st Grade employee are not even comparable. To be able to meet the aimed outcomes, it necessitates the relevant authorities to amend certain enacted laws and regulations and certainly the constitution, which prerequisites the provincial and district council elections for the amendment of the constitution.
Another challenge would be the long-established corruption in Afghanistan. This would undermine the entire implementation process of the plan proposed. Who guarantees that the plan would benefit all the low-ranking employees? Who would guarantee that the plan would not be a blank check for limited government officials who have sucked the blood of the Afghan martyrs and devoured what was for the widows and the indigent? Who would take account of meritocracy and set valid requirements for all those employees who work? Does it imply that for the dissolution of several parallel systems, we need to establish another entity for enforcement? It is a white elephant! More important is the question that would this be acceptable to our honorable high government officials and political appointees? These and several other questions need to be addressed before taking such a core decision that influences the labor system in Afghanistan.
The feasibility of the implementation of this plan becomes obvious when the attitude of the MPs is observed. Despite receiving considerable amounts of money and several other privileges, the parliament proposed a law that would entitle the MPs with privileges that are given to the members of the supreme court, and the president. Some even requested the Ministry of Finance to exempt them from paying the tax. The representatives who amplify and reflect the voice of people, who come from the people, are they willing to be subjected to the salary uniforming plan themselves?
At the same time, it can be argued that if the low-ranking government employees were the main incentive behind the adoption of the salary equalizing plan, why the relevant authorities did not think about setting and increasing the minimum wage? A minimum wage would not only save the employees from financial discrepancies but will also assist in combatting poverty and enhancing the economy of the country. This would not require a constitutional amendment, nor would jeopardize the position of other employees, and will also fill the legal gaps of the labor code of Afghanistan.
In conclusion, Afghanistan is in a dire need of administrative reform that would help in reducing and gradually eliminating financial discrepancies provided for different levels of employees. However, the strategies that are implemented should also be evaluated on the basis of efficiency and feasibility, which clearly, the salary uniforming plan appears to have lacked undergoing such an evaluation.