Friday 15th May – 5 months, 29 days
Timor’s Council of Ministers passed a new regulation last week that affects my work – in fact, the work of every single person in the public service - but is not about gender. Or law. Or policy. Or programs. Or anything that most government offices would do, in my experience.
Every Friday for the next three months is now Cleaning Day. Public servants don’t go to work in the morning. Instead, they put on their old clothes, they go out in the streets, and they sweep, hoe and pick up rubbish. It’s like Clean Up Australia Day, except it’s Clean Up Dili Day and it happens *every* Friday.
Can I emphasize something? These are *public servants*. These are people who *already* had jobs to go to on a Friday morning.
It’s not like we don’t have sanitation workers. The Saneamento guys are out every weekday in different parts of Dili, with their trucks, sweeping and picking up rubbish. It’s not like we don’t have a sky-high unemployment rate. It’s not like we don’t have funds to pay extra people to do this. Donors practically fling themselves at the feet of this government, every single day.
So. Instead of using a tiny amount of donor funds to pay some *unemployed* people to clean, on Fridays, now, all public servants ‘clean’ from 7am, ‘do sports’ from 10am, go home for lunch and then ‘go back to work in the afternoon’. I am using quote marks because during ‘cleaning’ and ‘sports’ time, there is an awful lot of standing about chatting. Dili is still covered in exactly the same amount of crap and rubbish that it has been since I got here, so I feel this also bears my observation out.
As for ‘go back to work in the afternoon’... Are you kidding me? I can tell you now, the majority of people aren’t coming back to work in the afternoon. It’s Friday. They’ve been leaning on their brooms all morning. They’re tired. They’re not coming back to work to hammer out that policy draft, or the agenda for Monday morning’s senior staff meeting.
So now, a public service that already had difficulty getting through the amount of work it has to do in 5 days – which is not really 5 whole days, because people are always going to language lessons (Portuguese and English) and spending their time attending endless meetings – now has 4 days. I am seeing a bit of a trend already towards meetings on Saturdays instead (although this could just be a recent thing with my workplace, and not related to the cleaning).
If Dili is so concerned about the state of its streets – here’s an idea – employ some extra damn sanitation workers. Don’t use people who are already employed, who are meant to be learning how to run the freaking country!