Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An article by Vivian Kuan

This is an article written by one of my interns Vivian Kuan who is now doing her second year in law. Below is her observation of the civil service after completing her internship at our office. I'm most glad to see young people interested in governance and speaking up on issues pivotal to nation building. We have great hope in our future generation. You can also read her light hearted posting here after the completion of her internship with me. 

 

The Civil Service: Malaysia’s engine in need of a major overhaul

8 November, 2010
By Vivian Kuan
The four key areas to transform Malaysia’s civil service.
Source: magickriver.blogspot.com
Source: magickriver.blogspot.com

To date, the Malaysian public service has a staff strength of 1.2 million employees, covering 28 schemes of service. Despite the growth in quantity after 53 years, unfortunately the system still struggles with not only technological usage but also in efficiency, quality of service, and mind-setting spirit at work. We stress on improving the civil service because the Malaysian civil service plays a huge role in the growth of the country, domestically and internationally, and we therefore cannot afford these short-comings.

As recently as 9 October 2010, our Prime Minister addressed the civil sector in Malaysia to be more receptive to change. He mentioned in his speech that we should equip our public service with quality human capital and quality of service to meet the demands of our society. He said the following four areas would be the benchmark in order to improve the civil service:
  1. Transparency and accountability.
  2. Competitiveness.
  3. Merit-based, and striving for a culture of excellence.
  4. Knowledge and high awareness.
Transparency and accountability
The Prime Minister mentioned the adoption of best policies and implementation of services.
There has been much promotion of the policy of 1Malaysia and “people first, performance now.” However this is not reflected in practice.
For me, the true meaning of transparency and accountability – one that will benefit Malaysia – is to aim for zero corruption. Remember the RM12.5 billion corruption in the Port Klang Free Zone scandal? The RM12.5 billion could be channelled to fund scholarships or improve the road system, something that would be more beneficial to the growth of Malaysia.

Competitiveness
The Prime Minister said we have to listen to stakeholders.
Having to listen is indeed correct, but not to stakeholders – not yet anyway. The government has to listen to the people and find out what would attract the best people for the job. To be competitive in business, we have to make the civil service a competitive field for jobs. When the best brains are recruited, they will drive the civil service forward and increase competitiveness amongst stakeholders.

The sectors responsible for driving the civil service forward are the Federal Public Service, the State Public Services, the Joint Public Services, the education service, the judiciary, the legal service, the police and armed forces.

To increase competitiveness for these jobs, the government should channel funds to increase the pay of civil servants. This would make the jobs more prestigious and attractive, and would appeal to the best brains in Malaysia.

Jayanath Appudurai, who writes extensively on poverty for the Centre for Policy Initiatives, suggests that Malaysia calculates the PLI based on two-thirds of the median income of its households. The median income is a country’s total income divided by half – which is RM2,830 for Malaysia. Therefore, Malaysia’s PLI for 2010 based on two-thirds of the median income should be RM1,886, rather than the government’s PLI average of RM800 per household.

The basic salary of a special assistant to a politician is RM1,500, and for a local councillor, RM750. As stated above, the benchmark of one living in poverty is an income of RM1,886. We cannot expect a degree holder to want to take up a job that pays below the poverty line.

Recently, in light of the 2011 Budget, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah said bonus payments to civil servants would depend on the country’s economic situation. And yet the government can afford a RM 65 million facelift of the PM’s official residence, and an additional RM147 million for the construction of the new national palace at Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur.

Merit-based, and striving for a culture of excellence
The Prime Minister spoke of an outcome-based performance and delivery.
Yes, we should aim for a high performance culture, but this would only be possible when we achieve a cultured civil service. There should be more non-bumiputeras recruited. The reason is simple. Our country is multi-racial. Hence, the different races have different needs the government should cater to. Let me give you an example. Take the issue of merely fulfilling a basic need of having a crematorium for non-Muslims in a district. If the people up in the board are populated of more than 90% of bumiputeras, more often than not, we cannot expect them to provide for needs that would be almost impossible without proposal and deliberation from the non-bumiputeras. It would then be a challenge to strive for excellence and a high performance culture. We can’t really blame this on the people in the civil service, really. We blame it on the system.

AB Sulaiman wrote in his blog Anak Bangsa Malaysia on 4 February 2010 on the civil service being very “Malay-sian”. He mentioned his experience of working in the civil service, particularly in recruitment exercises: “Each time, my interview committee members and superiors goaded me to select and appoint people of my own type. The reason given was: ‘Malays are not yet ready for the highly competitive private sector employment. They won’t be able to survive out there’.”

There should be a place for all Malaysians in the civil service, so that each race is well represented. Lim Kit Siang, on his blog, stated that as at 31 December 2009, the racial breakdown of the Malaysian civil service comprising 1,247,894 employees is as follows: Malay (78.2%); Other Bumiputras (7.7%); Chinese (5.8%), Indian (4.0%); and Others (4.2%)

This the worst multi-racial composition of the government service, with the lowest Chinese and Indian representation in the public service in Malaysia’s 53-year history. This is clearly seen from the three sets of comparative figures of the racial breakdown of the civil service before the NEP 1971 and as at December 2009 – Malays (60.80% and 78.2%); Chinese (20.2% and 5.8%); Indians (17.4% and 4.0%); and Others (1.6% and 4.2%).

It is clear that the Government is setting the worst example of a 1Malaysia Government.

Yes, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk T. Murugiah told a press conference in Parliament on 13 October 2010 that the number of Chinese employed to date had seen an increase of 9% compared to 2008. With all due respect, an increase of 9% of the 5.8% of the Chinese in the government is quite pathetic.

Knowledge and high awareness
Our Prime Minister mentioned that there is need to implant knowledge into our thinking and reacting.
I beg to differ. I believe the more accurate statement would be that we have to implant thinking into the knowledge we’ve learnt. Often in the Malaysian syllabus of education, students are required to merely memorise facts and formulas to regurgitate out at the exam halls. There is minimal requirement for any form of thinking to be shown.

The education system is extremely important to empower the people with knowledge and high awareness. Not only does the current system not facilitate the need for thought and reaction, it also needs improvement in the area of cultivating civil awareness. For example, the syllabus should include basic general knowledge of the roles of different ministers, about the legislation, executive and judiciary, the difference between a Member of Parliament and an assemblyman. It’s tragic that SPM graduates do not know about basic things like that. These are all basic requirements in cultivating high awareness in our society.

The Prime Minister gave his views on improving the government system. Here are some of my views.

Malaysia has always been talking about improving infrastructure, growth in development, etc. Yes, Putrajaya is indeed a beautiful city. The government has spent billions beautifying that particular area. However, this would not attract the best brains to work there. More often than not, it is the pay that attracts. As mentioned earlier, money should not be allowed to leak into corruptions like the PKFZ scandal. These billions should be used to up the attractiveness of the pay of government servants.

To the dismay of government servants, the bonus to be paid to civil servants totalling RM 3.1 billion had not been included in the 2011 budget, due to financial constraints. Now there is a recent proposal of building another skyscraper with an allocation of RM 5 billion. I personally think that this RM 5 billion could be channelled to improving the government service by increasing the pay of civil servants.

It is evident that there is an increasing growth of infrastructure in our country but you’d be surprised that when it comes to simple necessities like street lamps, water pumps, the town council does not have sufficient funds. There must be something really wrong in our allocation of money.

Back in the day, the civil service used to be a very highly looked up to profession. How did that change over the years? How did the quality drop so immensely? Is it because the people running the system have become so complacent with things that they feel there is no need to maintain the quality, let alone improve it? After all, it’s been 53 years – and 53 years is a very long time.

Wanting to change things from grassroots level will not be as impactful. Given the analogy of the best lawyer in town, being able to lay down brilliant points of arguments and accurate cases in court, but we don’t change the way judges are appointed, justice still will not be served. Change must come from the top. 

The Prime Minister said Malaysia’s Talent Corporation will start its operations in January 2011, marking the start of a concerted effort to woo the return of Malaysian professionals abroad. Charles Polidano once said, “Most reforms in government fail. They do not fail because, once implemented, they yield unsatisfactory outcomes. They fail because they never get past the implementation stage at all. They are blocked outright or put into effect only in tokenistic, half-hearted fashion.”

So, Mr. Prime Minister, the rakyat will hold you to all your speeches. Prove to us that it all isn’t just words someone else had prepared for you to read out, and that this will move past the implementation stage. After all, they always say, actions speak louder than words.

Vivian Kuan is a person that never lets anyone tell her she can’t do something. She channels her time and energy only to what she loves in life. Thus, she chose to read law and is currently in her second year. Other than burying her head in law books, she loves to dance, play the piano and write songs. And she never says no to food. She has a heart for people; hence she finds joy in making a difference in the lives of others. She always believes she can do anything, which sometimes gets her into crazy situations, but that belief gets her through. She’s always wanted to be a part of something bigger in life.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

It’s very easy to point finger at someone. Having to complete an internship in just one of many government services doesn’t make one an expert in how to run the government.

Yes it’s true that the Malaysian public service has staff strength of 1.2 million employees, covering 28 schemes of service. The numbers seems surprisingly huge isn’t it? However, there are around 28 million Malaysian. How do you supposed the 1.2 million to tend to the 28 million Malaysian?
It’s not fair to put the blame on the government. Nobody is blaming the private sectors for their incompetence. I have to line up for more than an hour just to pay my telephone bill, had to wait 15 minutes just to talk to a local cable provider customer service officer.

There are more to share, but I think that as Malaysian, we need to be more appreciative of what we have rather than keep complaining about everything.

kl_boy said...

Nicely written but Najib is still sick leh, don't think he got time to read other than check facebook :-P

Anonymous said...

Hi Hannah.. I had a visitor from MPSJ today, enquiring with regards to getting a dog licence for my newly acquired dog, which is fine.. However, what is not fine was En Ashar bin Abdul Aziz's parting words to "menyokong BN".. What the F.. Besides, dont these guys have anything better to do rather than to go house to house to check on homes with dogs that dont even leave the house..?

Anonymous said...

Very well written article!

To one of the comments above. You are right that it is always easier to point finger at someone and put all the blames to the government ONLY. We as Malaysian has the responsibility to change.

You are probably working in the Customer Service Department for ALL private sectors to know that NOBODY is complaining? Very often we don't complain the private sectors not because we are satisfied with their service, but we don't have an alternative. If we do, we will probably want to try and find out if the alternative is better. e.g. if we don't satisfy with Celcom we go for Digi, if we are not satisfied with BN perhaps we should give PK a try.

I do agree that in some occasions, we should be a bit appreciative and stop complaining. However, complains and comments should highlight the dissatisfactions hence needs for improvements.

Anonymous said...

Hi

Simple thing between government and private organisation cannot differentiate. Government are supposed to be servants as we pay them. There is only one organisation for the ervice. Private we can have more - more competition. If they do not provide the service, we can go to next char keow teow stall.

Anonymous said...

No, it is very clear that UMNO is going to bring down PR and attack DAP. We must be vigilant and not to be caught by surprise like pearl Harbour or 9/11. They are acting like Commie brainwash or threatened the rakyat. We must stand firm.

What has this government servant involving during office hours talking about politics using such words?

Anonymous said...

The article is sad but is true. We've to accept for what we're today. That we're at the ranks of Philippines and the lesser. Best we buck up and do the right thing instead of finding excuses. Change for the better is imperative. At times we need to be hard to be kind.

Anon C said...

Why not walk the talk? Pakatan has four state governments. What efficiency plans have they implemented. Show to us. But instead they fail to deliver. See rights2write ( which supported pakatan in previous election) where the SSG don't even bother to respond to plights of abandoned houseowners. Where's the effeciency and transparency. Don't just talk and condemn, but deliver also.

Anonymous said...

The rulings have to be implemented by civil servants and U can read how they sabotage as pointed out in the above blog - "undi BN" whisper.

As for the abandon housing they are under MCA taikoh - ministry of housing and for 50 years, UMNO has allowed abandoned housing. The developers are mainly MCA/Gerakan/UMNO lean to developers. Every buy election, UMNO has been throwing money around but they are not hitting you or the recent proposal to built

Anonymous said...

To the first anonymous comment posted:

Vivian's article is not a complaint. It is an analytical view on how the Malaysia's civil service ought to be. If you truly appreciate what we have, then you would also appreciate that opposing thoughts are necessary as a dialectic that would eventually lead to change.

For a really simple example, had you voiced out your concerns to your telephone and cable service provider, they would have actually considered to change accordingly to meet the demands of the consumers, depending on the circumstances.

What you are doing now is truly a "complaint" by complaining about Vivian's article without any merits or opposing thoughts.

To Anon C:

The same applies to you. Instead of truly falling within the definition of "complaining", why not give an opposing thought that would be dialectic? Tell DAP how they ought to operate in order to better achieve efficiency and transparency. Had you done that, through dialectical arguments, you would have gained more insights as to the difficulties and obstacles that the state governments are facing.

Last but not least, please bear in mind that many contentious issues that concern you and many of us cannot be tackled without the "consent" (if i may use the word loosely) by the Federal Government. Hence, if you really want to see a change, then be the change you want to see, by choosing your Federal Government wisely.