Malaysiakini Letter

PM's call to cut red tape will curb corruption

Ramon Navaratnam  |  Published:

LETTER | As the former president of Transparency Malaysia (TIM) and also a former member of the MACC, I warmly welcome, like most Malaysians, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s clarion call for a reduction in bureaucracy and red tape in government at the MIGHT Consultation Dialogue yesterday.

There is no doubt in our minds that the unnecessary red tape is a major cause of corruption. The more red tape and bureaucracy, the more the corrupt giver has to pay to untie the red tape. The corrupt receiver too likes to introduce more red tape in order to get more bribes.

Both sides mutually gain and so corruption thrives and has now sadly become part of Malaysian culture.

So to the prime minister, please go all out to minimise red tape and bureaucracy for the benefit of our beloved country. The rakyat will surely support your noble initiatives to cut red tape and thus combat corruption more strongly and effectively.

At the same time, our Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has boldly stated that about four percent of our GDP or a reported sum of about a huge sum of RM47 billion is lost every year due to corruption.

This is a major national scandal and very few Malaysians realised that we are losing so much that could benefit the underprivileged bottom (B40) and middle 40 percent (M40) of our population.

It’s no wonder that our economy, our national budget and our national debt are under severe strain because of this widespread corruption. 

We definitely cannot sustain our economic resilience and social stability, if don't take more drastic measures to stamp out corruption and promote more efficiency in the public and private sectors.

That is why all the present unproductive politicking has to cease forthwith. The rakyat instead expect the government and the opposition leaders to focus more on managing the economy better, to reduce the cost of living and to raise our standards of living and our quality of life.

The deputy prime minister quite rightly wants to target raising our position on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) to 30, from the present 62 out of 180 countries. This is great; but how can we do it?

There has to be a more convincing government plan to achieve this ambitious but most desirable target. Otherwise public credibility and faith will be at stake.

Significantly, the able present TIM president Akhbar Satar announced yesterday that we scored only 47 out of 100 in the CPI rating for 2017. This bad score is depressingly below average.

And our outspoken former international trade minister Rafidah Aziz has also reflected the mood of the people by asking today in the press: "Where and when will it (fraud and deceit and the kleptocracy) end?" 

She vehemently adds that "the Pakatan Harapan government must do all it can to do things differently."

But what can the Harapan government do?

The government can change bureaucratic procedures and policies as follows and be consistent with the prime minister's advice to reduce red tape. But we have to ask ourselves, why do we have so much bureaucracy in the first place?

  • The national policy that has unfortunately developed silently over many years, to enlarge the public sector in the economy, even at the expense of the private sector. We should cut down on the bloated size of the 1.6 million civil servants.
  • Reducing the size of the civil service will cut down red tape and bureaucracy, because there will less civil servants to tie the up red tape and the economy.
  • Less bureaucracy will speed up business approvals, that can be seriously delayed because of the several levels of approval, as insightfully pointed out by the prime minister.
  • Less red tape enables the private sector to be less squeezed and crowded out. It will allow the private and business sectors more space to compete better.
  • GLCs and related government bodies will have to be opened out to encourage more joint enterprises, with closer collaborations from the domestic and foreign private sectors, to develop more multiracial companies.

But will the government have the courage to change policies to cut red tape? It may be more difficult to do so now, after conservative pressure groups decided to reject the ratification of the nternational Convention to Eradicate All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd). 

The prime minister's clear announcement to reduce red tape and bureaucracy has struck the right note with by most thinking Malaysians. It is therefore warmly welcomed generally.

However, there is a need for a strong political will and firm and sustained support from the majority of Malaysians in order to succeed.

Policies have to change more radically, to improve the ecosystem to more effectively combat, curb, counter and control the vicious and dangerous culture of corruption in Malaysia today.

But we cannot and should not depend on government alone. It’s all our people`s challenge and responsibility as well.

We can only hope and pray, that we resolve for 2019 and beyond, to rally round our prime minister's sincere and serious appeal to reduce red tape, which will cut corruption too.

That should be Malaysia's new year resolution: for most Malaysians to join hands with the government to break the back of the culture of corruption that can strangulate our blessed Malaysian society.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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