EDIT 3 hours later: Yeah! Shutdown averted. Hopefully without also a dramatic pay cut for  my friends and family.

The imminent gov’t shutdown is on everyone’s mind here. While some news organizations have hope that the shutdown will be averted by the deadline, that doesn’t prevent us from an increased level of anxiety and tension.

I think it has affected all of us, even if we think we’re brushing it off. People are slightly edgier, crabbier and quicker to gripe or snark. I’ve heard bitter comments from people who’ve never been bitter before.

And, while even an unpaid vacation might seem like a welcome respite for some of us, you can’t really leave Dhaka during a furlough, because you’ll need to report to work as soon as a budget is approved. You’re also not allowed to leave your duty station, so your involuntary vacation options are limited to those in the immediate vicinity, i.e. all those things in Dhaka we’ve already seen. So, we’re really facing an enforced time of thumb-twiddling.

It’s a big morale issue here, where a lot of the joy at post comes specifically from the job and the co-workers. If there’s no job, what’s the point?

While it’s definitely not-essential in comparison to the mission’s efforts to promote America’s interests and protect Americans abroad, we’ve got a mission party that is scheduled next week in celebration of the local “New Year.” It’s paid for by donations from employees, but the CLO coordinators might not be able to put it on, since it’s their job, and it’s against the law to do your job if you’re furloughed. No Volunteers. (This is actually a messier story, involving local Bangladeshi labor laws too, so I am pretty sure the show will go on, regardless of furlough, but still not a very fun time to celebrate new beginnings when you’re really beginning a tough time).

There’s a couple of informational fairs and outreach efforts that are scheduled for the next few days, which might be unexpectedly canceled. Visas won’t be approved, centers won’t be open.

Those people who will be required to work will not receive their paychecks until after the furlough is over, because there won’t be anyone working to process them, among other reasons.

We’re not going to receive mail. Hopefully the commissary will stay open.

In other words, no one will be able to do their job effectively, even if they are working. And those who aren’t, will still wish they could. Thus, we’re all anxious and crabby, even those who will be working.

But, no one is really sure if all the tension is worth it, what if Congress gets their act together today and passes a budget?

It’s a time of uncertainty.

When California started Furlough Fridays, it was devastating to the local businesses around gov’t centers. Many of them couldn’t survive with a 20% loss of customers and shuttered. A gov’t furlough reaches deep into the American economy, affecting not just the stereotypical image of the pencil-pushing bureaucrat (or the other stereotype of the gov’t beneficiary, the vilified image of the welfare-family), but that pencil-pusher’s lunch vendor, the weekend holiday-maker who wants to visit the National Park, military reservists,  companies that produce goods for gov’t contracts, researchers….. and many others.

So, I guess we here in Dhaka are crabby alongside a lot of Americans. It’s too bad that one of the “solutions” to the budget is a proposed reduction and freeze on foreign service salaries, a minuscule savings compared to the larger picture of the budget, and one that is not matched by equivalent stinginess in other agencies. Even if a budget is passed, if it includes that solution, we’re still in a hole.

And, this is coming from someone who thinks the federal debt is a big problem. I just wish people were brave and smart enough to deal with that problem, rather than nitpick while Rome burns.

And, I’m not usually one for predictions of a doom and gloom future, the uncertainty must be getting to me.

2 thoughts on “…Furloughs

  1. Gosh! I didn’t even think how this might impact people like you in Dhaka, Bangladesh! SO glad the crisis was averted. All we need is another American standing in the Gulshan 2 circle asking for a boksheesh, and me saying Taka nai!

  2. Thanks for the reminder to finish my post on baksheesh. Would you be the other American standing in G2 with me?

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