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People and Politics Forum 09. 07. 2010

"Are people treated properly by government agencies?"

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More information:

Explaining the law - The fight over welfare payments and bureaucratic red tape

Berlin's social welfare court has received 100,000 lawsuits to date, challenging the way welfare recipients have been assessed by the authorities. Many claimants end up winning their cases, as the assessments often contain mistakes. In an attempt to tackle the problem, the job center in Berlin's Mitte district has now employed someone to talk recipients through the decisions that have been made. He often has to take up the case with his own colleagues, owing to discrepancies.

Our Question was:

"Are people treated properly by government agencies?"

In the Philippines, Christina Bockmühl says officials just do their own thing:

"Negligence is rife. Officials are more concerned with getting stuff under the counter, like rice bags or some cash, instead of doing their work properly.

If you want something fast, you pay an "express surcharge". But what's the point in paying for a quick press of a PC button?...They weren't known either for turning down a tip. Perhaps things will improve under the new president with his positive image. Might persuade officialdom to help people more."

There's a vitriolic verdict from René Junghans in Brazil:

"It's the same sad story everywhere: civil servants just don't take people seriously. They are often haughty and arrogant, and just don't care about people's problems and needs. They seem to abhor the poor and their special requests, in contrast to representatives of the middle classes with just minor concerns.I think there is truth to the saying: "There are human beings, and there are civil servants!"

Though Mr Junghans does temper his anger:

"Mind you, there are one or two who do their work properly. To make things more efficient the whole service sector should be privatized. That way those who are now civil servants will have to do some work to salvage their jobs."

In India, Kai Nicholson says bureaucracy lumbers very slowly:

"And sometimes civil servants don't even know what they're supposed to be doing."

Helge Weyland has some clear words about things in Argentina:

"Here you're treated very properly if you slip the right amount of money in with your ID papers when you present yourself."

Herbert Fuchs, in Finland says experience indicates that...

"Bureaucracy in Germany stinks to high heaven. What ordinary people have to go through for even the most minor permit! The songwriter Reinhard Mey once wrote: 'Application for the issuing of an application form." [...] When I'm in my old home country Germany, I take care of my elderly mother's official business. She can't walk well anymore and has an artificial heart valve. Last time she asked me to go to town hall to get her handicapped parking sticker extended. The official told me she had to go to the doctor again first and have it confirmed, and that the pension office would then have to approve it before she could get it stamped and signed again. I was told it would take some time...."

Mr Fuchs says he was glad to get back home:

"I was once again shocked at Germany's bureaucracy and very glad to get back to my second homeland, where I'm not subject to such harassment.. "Poor Germany", I thought, as I left the office..."

According to Gerhard Seeger, things aren't very different in the Philippines:

"Government offices in the Philippines work very slowly and let people wait for a long time. That is clearly not proper treatment. Of course you can pay a high 'express' fee. Then, within two or three hours you get what can otherwise easily take a week."

Hannelore Krause sees problems in Germany:

"The customer is king -- long live the king!" But how do government offices treat people? The offices often call themselves services and people their customers. But they don't often seem to be serious about it. At the offices, you still have to draw a number and that's how you're treated. You often feel like a beggar and you're always at the mercy of the man behind the desk. Those who have trouble articulating themselves can expect to be sent on a wild goose chase. The official has nothing to fear, in his cushy featherbed of a protected job. He can decide any way he likes. Of course, there are some offices that actually do give people the red carpet treatment."

Erwin Scholz, writing from Costa Rica, wonders how things got this way:

"Bureaucracy takes the biggest berth

but not all's well, down here on earth.

Perhaps we should ask the apes about it.

They seem to get on fine without it."

The editors of “People and Politics” reserve the right to abridge viewers’ letters.