Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith yesterday told the Ministry of Home Affairs to speed up work to downsize state organisations after learning that many state departments are too large and employ too many civil servants.
Laos currently employs 184,871 civil servants, representing 2.8 percent of the entire population. This figure excludes soldiers, police officers, contracted officials, and employees at state-owned enterprises.
The 2.8 percent ratio gives Laos the second largest proportion of civil servants among the 10 Asean member countries after Brunei, the premier said.
The prime minister issued the advice at a two-day meeting of the home affairs sector to conclude work carried out in 2018 and discuss the work plan for 2019. The home affairs sector is in charge of overseeing the organisation of state bodies.
The structure of state organisations has expanded in recent years because many departments have enlarged lower divisions to accommodate an excessive number of officials. Furthermore, many state departments also employ officials on a contract basis.
Mr Thongloun told the meeting to strive towards achieving ‘a streamlined, strong, firm and transparent state organisational structure with a true spirit of public service’.
He recalled the government’s effort in this regard in which the prime minister himself last year issued Executive Order No. 3 to streamline and downsize the state organisational structure by requiring all state departments to merge subordinate offices or divisions whose scope of work overlapped or was similar.
Progress has been made in implementing the Order with the Ministry of Home Affairs completing a survey in eight ministries and submitting the findings to the government to seek guidance.
The survey found that the number of civil servants in many state departments was excessive, while some had too few.
Overall, the number of civil servants was found to be far in excess of requirements.
Prime Minister Thongloun said these unwarranted employees added a heavy burden to state expenditure on salaries and supporting allowances.
In light of this matter, the government has reduced the number of new civil servants recruited each year from more than 10,000 people previously to just 3,000 last year and to 1,500 people this year.
“We need to make effective use of personnel. One person can do several jobs,” he told the meeting.
He added that the presence of too many officials did not necessarily mean that public services would be delivered more quickly. On the contrary they have been slow and inefficient over past years.
The cut in the quota of new civil servants has reduced the number of new recruits to less than the number retiring, meaning the government is able to reduce the overall number of civil servants. Almost 4,000 officials retired in 2018.
With the introduction of a smaller civil servant quota, Mr Thongloun told state departments to recruit new officials based on their competence and qualifications, through a careful selection process. This would ensure the state was served by qualified employees who would provide efficient public service.
The limited quota means that many volunteers and officials currently working on a contract basis, who are employed at many state departments, will not be accepted as civil servants. One reason is that their age could exceed the upper limit of 35 stipulated for new recruits.
“It is impossible to recruit all contract staff and volunteers,” Mr Thongloun said. He raised the possibility of state bodies training and encouraging contract staff and volunteers to work with private companies or projects or even to run their own business.