Archive for May 23rd, 2012

Guest Post: Spain's Public Servants: A Lifetime Of Serfdom

Submitted by J. Luis Martin, director of Truman Factor

Spain’s Public Servants: A Lifetime Of Serfdom

They are cast as lazy and inefficient bureaucrats who don’t work hard, take long coffee breaks and enjoy too many perks for being on the taxpayers’ payroll. Indeed, the cliché is as universal as unfair. However, the Spanish civil service system exemplifies many of the things that are utterly wrong in the way the country is managed.

The Spanish public sector at a glance

Spain’s civil service (función pública) remained virtually unchanged until the 1960s, when its rigid nineteenth-century French fonction publique mold was broken to allow for a more open Anglo-American model. In essence, this meant that access to the civil service was no longer exclusive to competitive examination and merit, as other schemes of recruitment were introduced. 

Upon Franco’s death, Spain’s civil service continued its steady expansion and politicization started under the dictatorship. Successive governments have embraced the American “spoils” system, which has turned a supposedly highly professionalized and independent sector into another arm of political power. 

Also, they have adapted public service to Spain’s ever-mutating territorial structure of “Autonomous Communities” or regions, which has ended up expanding the number of public employees by creating redundant posts, instead of decentralizing and optimizing resources.

Furthermore, the Spanish public sector’s weight on the country’s economy is quite considerable when compared to other nations. According to the OECD, “Spain relies more on government employees in the production process than many other OECD countries.” This is even more evident in the poorer regions such as Extremadura, where dependency on the public sector surpasses 20% of the labor force.

As per the latest official survey from July 2011, today’s Spanish public sector accounts for 2.6 million people, out of which 1.6 million of are “career” funcionarios (as state employees are known) who actually earned their posts via competitive examination (oposiciones). These are the doctors, judges, teachers, police officers, soldiers, administrative clerks, and the many anonymous faces who actually keep the government running. In terms of salaries, career funcionarios earn anywhere between 1,300 and 3,000 euro per month.

The other million encompasses the universe of non-career funcionarios: full-time and temporary workers, substitutes, advisors, as well as the increasingly notorious politically-appointed “trusted employees.”

A job for life

Becoming a civil servant is the Holy Grail of career paths for many due to the permanent character of civil service employment in Spain. However, securing a government job is not an easy task.

Considering that high unemployment has driven more people to apply, and since the government has cut back its public employment offers, competition today is fiercer than ever. To take part in the race for one of the few hundred clerical posts available each year in the judicial system, for example, means competing against tens of thousands. The odds of becoming a funcionario in Spain are sometimes similar to gaining access to an Ivy League university.

The typical candidate for a government job in Spain spends anywhere between one to five years preparing for the oposiciones, and often must enroll in specialized courses at private academies – a 100-200 euro per month expense, not including study materials. Undoubtedly, public service candidates undertake a grueling and expensive race for a lifetime job. While most are left out, a small handful is able to capitalize on their efforts by securing a job in the private sector (mainly in the medical and legal services industries).

An associate at one of Madrid’s top law firms said: “we often look to recruit young candidates who did not make the cut at the oposiciones. These are highly prepared individuals, who, unlike newly grads, know the law by heart – literally.”

The select few who do make the cut at the oposiciones soon discover the meaning of that old adage, “be careful for what you wish,” as they become victims of their own success in a perverse system.

The perversity of merit for complacency

Once the cherished civil service job is conquered, the incentives to work hard are gone: focused dedication, arduous competition and the reward of merit, the ingredients which got these funcionarios their job in the first place, are replaced by a perverse system which drives them into a lifetime of imposed complacency.

Public service chastises ambition and annihilates the individual, as there are no incentives for performance, special talents or skills. Nor are they pressured to work hard to keep the job – as the popular saying in Spain goes, a Cabinet meeting must be summoned in order to fire a bureaucrat.

“We are frustrated,” a police officer says about the shrinking salaries and increased unpopularity of public workers. “We earned our jobs in fair terms, do our work and pay taxes just like the rest, but they keep coming after us.”

Despite the “austerity” cutbacks, there are a few areas of government that still assign paid extra work hours, which is the closest thing to an incentive to be more productive in the Spanish public service system. However, government employees are subject to the same confiscatory tax code as the rest of the citizens they serve, so working on Saturdays for a little extra income is not attractive for some. A government clerk plainly states: “I’m no longer asking for extra hours. I need to be careful not to earn too much. I’m at the limit; if I go over, taxes would ruin me.”

The perks associated with public service, such as reduced working hours, special discounts at the dentist, a little extra at the end of the year as “social action”, and even low interest loans at the bank are vanishing. On the rise, however, especially due to a worsening economy and corruption scandals involving politicians and their “trusted employees,” is popular dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy.

One of the problems affecting the image the general public has of its public workers is that, like in the private sector, those who get in through the back door via political appointment are the ones who give the entire workforce a bad reputation. The highest-paid funcionarios do not need to take an exam to prove their knowledge and skills in a competition of equals. They are hand-picked (friends, relatives, patrons, etc.) by a politician, as well as the usual suspects in carrying out abuse of public resources.

Reforming the public sector: perversity with a twist

The Spanish government has promised to reform the public sector to make it thinner and more efficient. In practice, however, the political machinery based on spoils is being kept intact while some very critical public functions are coming apart at the seams. This results, for example, in overcrowded courts with insufficient staff and resources that bear no resemblance to a developed nation’s judiciary. Angry and less motivated public employees feel robbed of their dignity and pockets while the general population’s dissatisfaction with tax-draining, yet increasingly inefficient, public services grows.

Public workers fear a new wave of cuts in their salaries as a result of the debt-laden regional governments’ asking for more “solidarity” from those who have a secure job. Naturally, in a nation with almost 6 million unemployed, public servants will not find much support from society if they opt to go on strikes to protest additional salary cutbacks.

Just how far is the government willing to make itself redundant, especially in a time of economic crisis? Does Spain need state-journalists working for state-owned radio and television stations (there are 48 public television stations across the country)? How about the double, triple and sometimes quadruple existence of government officials and agencies due to layers and layers of local, regional and central government institutions? Unions and political parties sustained with taxpayers’ money?

While getting rid of 99% of the government is a utopian dream for some, proper and effective basic institutions are fundamental for a nation’s productivity and socioeconomic development. The perverse hypocrisy in sustaining political machinery and propaganda apparatus in the name of the “welfare state” has truly broken new limits under the current crisis. The system is not being reformed under the principles of efficiency. Instead, and as it is happening in the banking industry, politicians are bailing out their clientelistic sources of power and control at the expense of taxpayers.

As far as public servants are concerned, more and more are realizing that a false concept of merit astutely devised by mediocre politicians secured them not a job for life, but a lifetime of serfdom.

 

Originally published in El Confidencial

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UN row queries Havana on tellurian rights abuses, jail deaths

A U.N. row on woe Tuesday demanded that Cuba yield information on a deaths of several domestic prisoners, a hang-up of anarchist groups such as a Ladies in White and a 2,400 arrests of supervision critics reported final year.

The direct came on a same

Article source: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/05/22/149752/un-panel-queries-havana-on-human.html

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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 Salary Of A Dentist No Comments

Undergraduate Focus: The truth about dentistry

 

People always think being a doctor is a very important occupation, and tend to overlook dentists as essential healthcare professionals. But everyone needs a dentist to take care of their oral health.

Anyone who has ever had a tooth- ache will testify that a good dentist can be a lifesaver. And dentists, or dental surgeons as they are also known, take care of more than just teeth.

Over the years, the profession has evolved and developed tremendously. Today, dental surgeons can replace missing teeth with dental implants that are indistinguishable from the other teeth, straighten teeth and salvage teeth. They are even called upon to reconstruct hard and soft facial tissues, says Dr Chow Kai Foo, Honorary General Secretary of the Malaysian Dental Association.

Outlook: Malaysia now has 13 dental schools. The number of graduates from these local schools combined with Malaysians who graduate from foreign schools is enough to meet the current demand for dental surgeons.

“The career outlook is very bright, but we must always remain on the cutting edge of the science and art of dentistry,” says Dr Chow. “If we manage our human resources wisely, and never compromise the standard of our graduates for any reason, we will not decline.”

Local graduates have been of the highest standards and on par with world‘s best. But the field of dentistry is now balanced on the edge – the steep increase of the number of dental schools from three to 13 over the course of the past five years means there is now a shortage of good qualified teachers. This could possibly compromise the standard of Malaysian graduates, so institutes should be vigilant lest the quality of dental surgeons decline.

Knowing the profession: A vital component of a good dentist is compassion; being able to empathise is important. A postgraduate degree in dentistry is not really necessary for a successful career, though it will keep the professional at the cutting edge.

Continuing professional development is essential, as with any profession today. Dentists need to keep abreast of the constant advances in technologies, and scientific and artistic knowledge and expertise.

Students should know that a common misconception about a career in dentistry is that dentists make a lot of money, says Dr Chow. “Most dentists do attain a very generous income mainly through sheer hard work, study and by constantly keeping up with current advances. If a person wants to really make a lot of money, they should work towards owning a business that has unlimited growth. We must remember that every dentist has only one pair of hands and limited hours a day and there are only so many patients you can see before collapsing in exhaustion.”

What you need: “An aspiring dentist should have a deep appreciation of both the art and science of dentistry,” advises Dr Chow. “Most of all, they must have compassion for their patients who usually come to them in pain. Dentistry is a good choice of career, provided you go into it with your eyes wide open and armed with proper knowledge of what it entails.”

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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 Dentistry No Comments

Board of Dentistry places Billings dentist on probation

A 45-year-old dentist charged in Helena for a sex crime is now on trial with a state Board of Dentistry for not being stirring on his renovation about a assign and for being convicted of a assign involving violence.

Jason James Roan, who lives in Billings, primarily was charged with passionate retort but agree and entered an Alford defence on a obtuse assign of transgression rapist endangerment. Roan perceived a three-year deferred judgment after revelation to formulating a estimable risk of critical corporeal damage to his victim.

After a charges were filed in Apr 2010, Roan renewed his dentistry license. On the

Article source: http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/11558380-d617-5ba0-9876-df366091756b.html

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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 Dentistry No Comments

UN panel queries Havana on human rights abuses, prison deaths

MIAMI _ A U.N. panel on torture Tuesday demanded that Cuba provide information on the deaths of several political prisoners, the repression of dissident groups such as the Ladies in White and the 2,400 arrests of government critics reported last year.

The demand came on the same day that Cuba’s Granma newspaper and Prensa Latina news agency published reports defending the island’s prison system, which faces allegations of “slave labor” in the 1980s and other current abuses.

Members of the U.N. Committee Against Torture, which is based in Geneva, requested the Cuban government explain the recent deaths of dissidents Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Wilman Villar after lengthy prison hunger strikes, and that of Juan Wilfredo Soto after an alleged beating by security officials.

Complaints that Cuban prisons are plagued by overcrowding, malnutrition, bad hygiene, and beatings for those who protest and forced exile for others have been received in Geneva, said panel member George Tugushi.

Cuba also has been asked to explain the “aggressions and harassments” against the Ladies in White, bloggers Yoani Sanchez and Orlando Luis Pardo and Zapata’s mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, the panel noted during the first day of its two-day hearing on Cuba.

The U.N. committee also asked for explanations of the more than 2,400 short-term detentions of dissidents reported in 2011 by Havana human rights activists, including Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

“We want Cuba to clarify all these cases,” said Nora Sveaass, one of the 10 panel members and a Norwegian human rights attorney, according to media reports from Geneva.

The panel, which monitors enforcement of the U.N. Convention on Torture and Other Physical Abuses and Transgressions, reviews the records of several U.N. member nations each year. This year it was Cuba’s turn.

Cuba’s Deputy Attorney General Rafael Pino defended his government during his appearance before the panel, saying that “no one in our country has been persecuted or sanctioned for exercising their rights, including those of free expression and association.”

Pino added that of the 263 complaints of prison abuses filed with the government from 2007 to 2011, only 46 led to findings that security agents were responsible. He gave no further details.

His comments came as Granma published an article defending the country’s prison system and Prensa Latina quoted Antonio Llibre, identified as a Cuban expert in international rights, as saying Cuba has been “free of torture” since 1959.

Those claims were disputed by human rights activists in Cuba and abroad.

“Former prisoners … consistently describe deeply inhumane conditions in Cuba’s prisons _ from overcrowded cells to inadequate food and water, from poor medical treatment to a hazardous lack of hygiene,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch’s Americas division.

Sanchez and Vivanco also have noted that Cuba does not allow the Red Cross to inspect its prisons. “If Cuban prisons are model institutions, why prevent people from seeing them?” Vivanco asked.

Cuba now has 57,337 inmates, including 31,494 “in locked conditions,” Granma noted, without explaining the meaning of the term.

Sanchez previously estimated the prison population at 70,000 to 80,000.

He noted that before Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, Cuba had 14 prisons and 4,000 inmates in a population of 6 million, or about one inmate per 1,500. Today, the 57,337 inmates in a population of 11.2 million equal one per 195.

About 27,100 inmates receive schooling and 24,531 are participating in job-training programs, added Granma, the official voice of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba.

Granma also reported that prisoners can play sports and engage in religious activities. The paper noted that famed singer Silvio Rodriguez and other artists played in 16 prisons during a tour in 2008.

It mentioned that inmates have a “strong health program” but gave no details. A pro-government blogger wrote last week that prisons have one doctor for every 300 inmates, a dentist for every 1,000 and a nurse for every 120.

Criticisms of the island’s prisons erupted this year amid reports that the IKEA furniture chain had contracted for Cuban prison labor in the late 1980s. A series of videos allegedly shot inside a Havana prison showed dirty toilets and walls and leaking sewage.

The newspaper added that about 23,113 inmates are “participating in labor” and receive a salary “according to the tariffs established” for others in the labor force, but gave no further details on their salaries or employers.

Four Cuban-American members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization on Monday requesting an investigation of the reports about IKEA’s prison connection.

“The Castro regime has been given a pass far too many times by international organizations willing to look the other way on Cuba’s grave human rights abuses,” said the letter by South Florida Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and David Rivera, and New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires.

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(c)2012 The Miami Herald

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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 Salary Of A Dentist No Comments

More group entering fields dominated by women

HOUSTON — Wearing brick-red scrubs and chatting in Spanish, Miguel Alquicira staid a small lady into an adult-size dental chair and soothed her by a set of X-rays. Then he ushered a dentist, a woman, into a room and stayed on to offer as interpreter.

A masculine dental assistant, Mr. Alquicira is in a minority. But he is also partial of a distinctive, if small noticed, change in workplace gender patterns. Over a final decade, group have begun flocking to fields prolonged a range of women.

Mr. Alquicira, 21, graduated from high propagandize in a barren pursuit market, one

Article source: http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/more-men-enter-fields-dominated-161606927.html

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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 Salary Of A Dentist No Comments

More Men Enter Fields Dominated by Women

HOUSTON — Wearing brick-red scrubs and chatting in Spanish, Miguel Alquicira staid a small lady into an adult-size dental chair and soothed her by a set of X-rays. Then he ushered a dentist, a woman, into a room and stayed on to offer as interpreter.

A masculine dental assistant, Mr. Alquicira is in a minority. But he is also partial of a distinctive, if small noticed, change in workplace gender patterns. Over a final decade, group have begun flocking to fields prolonged a range of women.

Mr. Alquicira, 21, graduated from high propagandize in a barren pursuit market, one

Article source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/more-men-enter-fields-dominated-161606927.html

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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 Salary Of A Dentist No Comments


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