Mahal Tali Dari Lembu


When we first achieved Merdeka, for every RM5 spent, RM1 was for administration and RM4 for development. Today, it’s the other way around. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development standards, Malaysia is known to have one of the most bloated civil service in the world!

Malays call this ‘mahal tali dari lembu‘ (the rope is more expensive than the cow). But at least we can still see a cow. Better than when some allegedly spend a quarter billion ringgit with no cows to show at all!

According to this site, “the Malaysian Public service has staff strength of 1.2 million employees covering 28 schemes of service including 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.”

The Inland Revenue Board (IRB) says that 5.5 million people in the country are eligible to pay taxes but only 1.7 million are active taxpayers. As the Malaysian population stands at 28.3 million, it means only six per cent are paying taxes, which explains why the government debt is increasing while wealth disparity and income gap are worsening.

So we have 1.7 million Malaysians paying the salaries of 1.2 million employees in the civil service which means that approximately 1.5 tax-paying Malaysians is paying the salary of ONE civil servant.

And why is this so? Since the 1990’s, the civil service has been expanding rapidly with accelerated growth since 2007. To give you a clearer picture, take a look at the following figures:

1990: 773,997 government employees
2000: 894,788 staff members
2010: @ 1.2 million government employees
2011: 1.3 million government employees (Source: FMT)

What about salaries? In 2005, RM25.6Billion was spent on salaries but by 2008, this figure increased to RM41.0Billion (in other words, each tax payer forked out RM22,800)

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and 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%. Obviously, such an over-bloated civil service is an unnecessary financial burden in Malaysia!

Some argue that such a bloated civil service exists to provide jobs for local graduates who have difficulty in finding jobs but at what cost?

Is it justified to use and to deplete public funds to pay for poor quality workforce?

Consider the opportunity costs of such a decision. What social and public goods could have been provided for the betterment of the nation?

Will over-staffing increase efficiency and productivity in any way?

Issues such as poor accountability in public expenditure, corruption and inefficiency could actually influence some to avoid tax simply because one may not get value for tax paid!. Ever so often, we come across reports on how BILLIONS (note: no longer millions) of ringgit are being squandered or the high expenditure of scandals when some of the richest states in Malaysia are also the poorest state?

Many would think, where on earth did all our taxes go to? Is it any wonder that taxpayers feel outraged and  question why the necessity of paying tax if and when such payment is going to waste and not to fund social services such as roads, schools, hospitals and security?

Last year, I blogged on A President, A Queen and Two PMs where I summarized the following: