[EDITORIALS]Unwise jolt to civil serviceSome government agencies, including the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, have ordered all first-rank officials to submit letters of resignation so that the government can select whom to release prior to a projected general shakeup of civil servants. Granting that the top ranks are not included in the legal guarantee of job tenure for civil servants, we find the step an unprecedented high-handedness that may bring serious side effects. Civil servants are alarmed, anticipating that the purge will spread to other ministries.
The step seems consistent with the new government’s goal to reform civil service by crushing the seniority hierarchy. It is desirable to jolt the rigidity of civil service through personnel management that ignores hierarchy. Such a policy can demolish the “iron rice bowl,” the notion that regardless of qualification, bureaucrats once admitted to civil service ride an automatic escalator of promotions.
But we question the legitimacy of the government’s means. It should have set up principles and standards first and followed transparent and fair procedures. The home affairs minister forced the highest-ranking civil servants to submit resignations after stating that he wanted the organization’s blood circulated. The right way would have been for the minister to evaluate his personnel one by one and then dismiss the unqualified.
More worrisome, the step may result in a tame civil service. If the top positions can be shaken up like this, how can lower-ranked officials work with commitment and enthusiasm? Even some officials in their early 50s were subjected to the ouster. We worry that civil servants may opt for fawning and networking for survival rather than competing fairly. The reason civil service jobs are guaranteed by law is to allow them to be neutral, unaffected by politics. If elimination of respect for rank and order is necessary, it must be done with respect for law and procedure.