Malaysiakini Yoursay

Yoursay: Dr M must bite the bullet on civil service downsizing

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YOURSAY | ‘This is a hard call, even in Malaysia Baru.’

Dr M: Civil service too big, but hard to downsize

Mosquitobrain: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, it is a known fact that we have a bloated civil service and it needs to be downsized. This is the BN government’s own doing – the more the better, and turn it into a vote bank.

When all is said and done, please revamp the education system first before you ever think of downsizing the civil service.

Where are you going to place those retrenched staff? Force them to compete in the private sector? Are they good and marketable to take on new challenges?

Anyway, forget about moving into the high-technology industry and manufacturing. Our freshies are not trained in this field and are not ready.

We can always boast of having the best software, but we are lacking in ‘humanware’. Every year, local higher institutions are churning out thousands of sub-standard fresh graduates. Where do they go?

The uncertainty in the economy has resulted in fewer job opportunities. Good and sound education is the way forward. No pain, no gain.

Vent: This is vintage Mahathir. Admit to the problem, then decry the solution if it's not politically expedient. Is it difficult to downsize the civil service? Not at all.

Don't replace superfluous positions; prune down the litany of grades and scales; offer voluntary separation scheme (VSS) packages; build in a demerit system within the currently ridiculous appraisal system (of everyone going through the loop to the next pay increase and, in many cases, automatic promotion); adjust the pay scale only to reward the deserving.

Also, increase office automation to replace superfluous staff. We may still need the despatch clerk.

But do we need the peons, multiple counter staff, receptionists in all sections or divisions, countless clerks, so-called computer assistants and the ubiquitous security staff even on otherwise secure premises?

Isn't Mahathir the prime minister? And he's an old hand at how to do it.

Mobilise a task force from across all the ministries and related statutory boards and agencies. Give them a clear brief and timetable.

It won't be seen as a witch hunt because it will only remove the first layer of real deadwood, with more efficient results coming on stream later.

Is it hard to do? Yes, because Mahathir does not want to lose his vote bank completely. After all, his birth child Bersatu is full of tainted former Umno supporters and he has to woo the rest into the new ‘ketuanan’ fold.

So yes, it's going to be a hard call even in Malaysia Baru.

Anonymous 2315071437551281: The solutions are: Review and cut the salaries of Jusa-level (Jawatan Utama Sektor Awam or premier grade) civil servants and their annual increments; shorten the mandatory retirement age for non-critical schemes to 55 years; introduce minimum-maximum limit cap for pensions; review the Public Service Department’s (JPA) role in managing human resources; and curtail the JPA's illegal authority to promote civil servants and return it back to the Public Services Commission (SPA).

Don’t Just Talk: Indeed, the size of the civil service is way too large and needs to be trimmed down, although it might result in Pakatan Harapan losing the 15th general election.

Instead of retrenching, the government should stop recruiting staff for the next five years. Excess staff should be transferred out to re-align the actual staff strength by implementing the Hay system (a job performance evaluation method that is widely used in North America and Europe) as soon as possible.

Prudent: Give them incentives. For example, generous one-off VSS payments weighted for those not so suitable for government service. This is more economical than keeping them on till retirement and beyond with pensions till the end.

Simulate the VSS schemes first, and tweak accordingly for optimum advantage.

Mahu See Lui: Malaysia has one of the world's largest civil services relative to its population. Add the unfunded pensions for retirees, and it burns a huge hole in the budget.

It's unsustainable, but who wants to bell the cat? It used to be Umno's fixed deposit, and may yet vote to bring BN back if Harapan dares to chop the number.

Drngsc: Sack all directors-general first and allow the assistants to take over. Yes, there will be a few months of poor administration. Then things will improve and the civil service will respect the government. Discipline will be restored.

All junior staff in departments would be re-designated to enforcement areas. Make them all auxiliary officers. Any hint of corruption, or living beyond their means, will require an explanation.

Discipline is what the civil service needs.

EmEmKay: Yes, the civil service is too big. Mahathir, actually you did reduce the civil service by privatising many government agencies like Telekom and Tenaga Nasional previously.

But over the years, civil servants were employed just to become pro-government supporters and increase the vote bank of the ruling government.

Employing too many civil servants is not sustainable in the long term. The government has to find solutions to arrest it, or otherwise pension payment amounts would be colossal and unmanageable in the near future.

Clever Voter: One can opt for natural attrition, no replacement policy or even voluntary separation.

These are politically less sensitive if Mahathir is worried about the civil service as a vote bank.

Switching the affected ones to manufacturing is impractical. Some of the public entities can be merged. Universities are examples.

Over the years, the public sector’s remuneration has overtaken that of the private sector. Despite that, almost every single civil servant is indebted, and mass retrenchment would be a worry for banks, co-operatives and even the government.

Someone, therefore, has to earn the money to support this bloated workforce.

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These comments are compiled to reflect the views of Malaysiakini subscribers on matters of public interest. Malaysiakini does not intend to represent these views as fact.

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