The implementation of government policies and projects is the duty of the Bangladesh Civil Service, a corps of trained administrators who form the nation's most influential group of civilians. The importance of the bureaucracy dates back to the colonial period, when the Indian Civil Service provided an elite, educated, and dedicated body of professional administrators. After the partition of India in 1947, when almost all administrative organs had to be created afresh, both East Pakistan and West Pakistan heavily relied on the managerial expertise of professional managers from the old Indian Civil Service. When Bangladesh became independent in 1971, the members of the civil service who joined the new nation brought with them the heritage of the colonial system. This heritage included administrative competence, which proved invaluable in running a young Bangladesh, and an expectation by the elite of benefits and power.
In mid-1988 the civil service was composed of twenty-eight separate services. There were twenty grades, with promotion to higher grades based on merit and seniority, dependent on annual confidential reports filed by the individuals' supervisors. Recruitment to the civil service occurred through open competition within a quota system. Forty percent of all new positions were allotted on the basis of merit; 30 percent were reserved for former freedom fighters (Mukti Bahini), and 20 percent were allotted to women. The quotas were distributed among districts on the basis of population. Eligibility depended on an entrance examination, which included English, Bangla, and mathematics sections, plus a personal interview. The Public Services Commission, as mandated by the Constitution, conducted the examinations for the civil service. The recruitment system attempted to eliminate the entrenched power of the old elites and to decrease the bias that favored candidates from wealthy, urban families. Although in the late 1980s it appeared that the new rules for recruitment and promotion might widen the backgrounds of civil service personnel and their supervisors, the older, senior members of the service continued to dominate the administration.
Since independence, membership in the civil service has been one of the most desirable careers in the country. For senior civil servants, benefits included government housing at a standard rate of 7.5 percent of base salary, transportation, medical care, and a pension. Equally important were the prestige and influence that accompanied an administrative career. For example, there was great power in directing a division of a ministerial secretariat in Dhaka, or one of its attached departments, subordinate offices, or autonomous bodies. Positions in the countryside were less popular, but the long tradition of bureaucratic elitism and subservience to government officials made the local administrator of the civil service an influential person in the community. In the late 1980s, the centralization of power and influence within the civil service remained one of the prime targets of administrative changes designed to decentralize politics and economic development throughout Bangladesh.
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