Spirit of public service will help overcome virus

Thursday, July 9th, 2020 00:00 |
A medic holds a vaccine. Photo/PD/COURTESY

For once, no one is talking about making profit from catastrophe. Instead, big companies are going beyond the call of corporate social responsibility, by making huge donations in cash and kind towards the fight against the new coronavirus pandemic.

Anyway, there may be no choice amid the unpredictable global economic shutdown.

As a consequence of the debilitating pandemic, there seems to be renewed thinking  globally on the role of private sector in serving humanity.

And, as these concerns find their place in the emerging new normal, the good old public sector has been holding the fort.

The challenges of Covid-19 have once again brought to the fore the inevitability of public service in sustaining humanity.

Without the spirit of service and selflessness exemplified by public servants, the social and economic structures could have been overwhelmed. 

We have realised that the world is not moved and shaken exclusively by those in high offices and boardrooms, but by government officers in healthcare, social work, education, power and energy, justice, water and sanitation, the police and emergency services, among other essential services.

Achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is pegged on both efficient and dedicated service delivery by the public sector globally.

Without a people centered approach, the promise of SDGs cannot be achieved.       

In recent years, public service has outgrown its stereotypical outlook as a sector stuck in a time warp, to one moving with modernity.

From the developing to the developed countries, public servants have become innovators and leading contributors to new approaches in attempting to solve perennial problems. 

It is all about good governance at the local, national and international levels.

Due to its re-invention, public service is now a competitor in the recruitment of talent, as professionals seek to make an impact in their professions and countries. 

The role of various cadres of public service has in recent years received international acclaim.

The UN Public Service Awards citation terms it as, “the most prestigious international recognition of excellence in public service” which “rewards the achievements and contributions of public service institutions that lead to a more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide”.

Public service is the ideal vehicle in harnessing the synergies of other sectors in the delivery of essential services.

As the sector adopts new and emerging technological trends and platforms, it is producing hybrid systems that bring together civil society, academia, businesses and government.   

If there were any doubts on the importance of public service in the welfare and development of mankind, they have been dispelled by the devastating  impact of Covid-19.

With the private sector retreating due to containment measures, the public sector has risen to the occasion, akin to going back to the basics.

Sadly, many frontline workers in fighting the pandemic have succumbed to the same disease they are helping others to overcome.

One would only appeal to countries to invest more in the protection and welfare of public servants, in order to help them do the same for all of us.   

There is no universal model in public service. Developed countries are more advanced in their systems compared to developing ones.

But both can share experiences, best practices and expertise, as has been the case, for instance, between frontline Chinese doctors, health care workers and other Covid-19 personnel, and their colleagues in other parts of the world.

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While there was reason to celebrate lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions by President Uhuru Kenyatta, it was no licence to paint the town red. We should not be foolhardy in facing our predicament.

The decision to postpone schools to next year is proof enough that it is a new normal, like it or not! —The writer is a communications expert and public policy analyst  —[email protected]

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