It is time the government addresses the issue of the overbloated civil service.
COMMENTThe 2012 Budget has failed to address the serious issues of soaring prices, rising inflation, minimum wage, corruption, cronyism, wastages and leakages in government departments but make no bones about it.
Malaysia’s civil service has got to go on record as being the most overbloated in the world. As at 2010, it numbers about 1.2 million employees on the government payroll out of a population of 28 million. What gives?
The civil service has been expanding rapidly since the 1990s and its growth has been accelerated especially fast since 2007. In 1990, the government had 773,997 employees, by the year 2000 there were 894,788 staff members and by 2010 about 1.2 million.
One of the key objectives of privatisation under the then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was to increase the efficiency of the delivery system and to reduce the civil service staff members to just above 500,000. Therefore, it could be said that the privatisation exercises were a complete and dismal failure in creating a lean and efficient civil service as the number now is more than twice its targetted size of 500,000.
The overbloated civil service has for the most part to do with the government’s policy of making our civil service the job saviour for the unemployable graduates, at least 70% of whom were Bumiputeras.
This will result in a poor quality workforce but worse than that it also depletes the government’s treasury. The Budget will be negatively impacted for the present and future years if the government does not restructure the civil service. Their pay rise itself will be a waste of public funds if there is a lack of efficiency and productivity.
‘Iron rice bowl’
In fact the civil service is none other than an “iron rice bowl” for no one can recall the government sacking any of its under-performing staff. Civil service staff, for example teachers who are racists are merely transferred to another school where they can still remain safely and securely employed even if they have done a disservice to the nation by inculcating young minds with racists tendencies.
This simply means that their paychecks are safely guaranteed by the government for the rest of their lives. This spurs them on to vote for Barisan Nasional come what may. Thus, their loyalty is secured as their morality and conscience go down the drain.
In 2005, the government’s emoluments expenses to maintain the civil service is RM25.6 billion and in 2008 it was RM41 billion (an increase of 60.2%). The civil service, therefore, is a heavy burden on emoluments as a percentage of Malaysia’s financial budget.
From taking up 23.3% of the nation’s operating budget in 2006, it has been nothing but a yearly increase as it grew to 25.5% in 2007, 28.1% in 2008, 24.6% in 2009 and 33.1% in 2010 in spite of the yearly massive increase in operating expenditure from 101.2 billion in 2006 to RM154.2 billion three years later in 2009.
If you take pensions into account, emoluments and pensions as a percentage of the government’s operating expenditure, the increase is from 29.8% in 2006 to 41.6% in 2010. Despite the fact that the annual budget is always increasing, the emoluments and pensions percentage proportion of the Budget is also ballooning!
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) shows Malaysia having the highest ratio of civil servants to the population in the Asia-Pacific region at 4.68% with Indonesia having 1.79%, Philippines 1.81%, South Korea 1.85% and Thailand 2.06%. Therefore the overbloated civil service is a major contributory factor to the financial burden of the government.
In 2007, the government created 2,000 jobs in the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to give jobs to unemployed graduates as “price monitors”. Their job was to jot down the prices of goods at wet markets, supermarkets and hypermarts. What is the purpose of this job is anyone’s guess.
Hugely inflated PM’s Department
In March 2009, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who at that time was already the finance minister announced that the government will recruit 63,000 staff. However, the worst civil service department is none than than the Prime Minister’s Department in terms of unwieldy numbers.
In 2001, there were 9,673 staff, in 2003 there were 21,045 and in 2009 it was 25,332. But it was in 2010 that the figure rose tremendously to 43,544 which is an increase of 71.9%. Compare that to the Executive Office of the United States President at the White House where there are only about 2,000 employees.
According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nazri Abdul Aziz, the increase was due to the “creation of new agencies” within the department as well as the addition of posts in a few existing agencies.
In the Prime Minister’s Department, besides the personal officers of the prime minister and his deputy, there are five full ministers, five deputy ministers, ministerial advisers and 45 other agencies.
Some of these agencies such as MACC, Attorney-General’s Chambers, Election Commission, Human Rights Commission and Public Complaints Bureau should have been placed under the jurisdiction of Parliament. Placing them under the umbrella of the Prime Minister’s Department makes the PM’s Department like a “rojak”.
For instance, the Land and Public Transport Commission (SPAD) which should fall under the Ministry of Transport is also under the Prime Minister’s Department.
It is time the government take serious steps to address the issue of the overbloated civil service. Otherwise the rakyat’s suspicions that the civil service is created to be the BN government’s vote bank is not far from the truth.
Selena Tay is a firm supporter of Pakatan Rakyat, being a DAP member, and a FMT columnist.