My proposal for the reduction and improvement of our civil service

Koon Yew Yin

Recently our Second Finance Minister Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani has the guts to point out the following facts regarding our civil service. I hope that this acknowledgment will give the Government the political will to do something about it. It takes a very brave politician to say this as the civil service and their families represent a large number of votes.

In 2009, Malaysia’s civil servants-to-population ratio was the highest in Asia Pacific. The ratio was 4.68%, compared with Singapore’s 1.4%, Indonesia’s 1.79%, South Korea’s 1.85% and Thailand’s 2.06% – all of which were less than half our ratio.

We have improved from Asian champion to world champion. Currently we have the largest civil service relative to our population in the world.

We have a total of 1.6 million civil servants – that is one government servant to service 19.37 Malaysians. For comparison, the proportion of civil servants to the national population in other countries is 1 to 71.4 people in Singapore, 1:110 in Indonesia, 1:50 in Korea, 1:108 in China, 1:28 in Japan, 1:84 in Russia and 1:118 in Britain.

The bloated civil service has caused government expenditure to increase yearly, leading to the escalating drop in revenue. Already 80% of the Federal Government’s annual budget goes towards operating expenditure and a large chunk of this is to pay for salaries and pensions.

As a taxpayer, I feel cheated when I see so much of our tax money going towards salaries for a bloated and consequently low-productivity civil service. This leaves much less for development and investments in education and skills training.

It is unfortunate that Johari asserted that the Government had no plans to reduce the number of civil servants although their remuneration and pensions continued to soar.

He said “In 2003, the pay of the public servants totalled RM22bil, but it has increased to RM74bil by 2016. In 2003, the pension of civil servants was RM5.9bil and in 2016 the amount soared to RM19bil.”

If nothing is done now, the numbers will continue to increase and the Government’s income will gradually decline. It must be noted that when these civil servants retire, the pension bill will shoot through the roof and this is going to be a major perennial issue.

Moreover, due to our excellent heath care system, life expectancy is longer which will increase the cost for pension of civil servants. In a recent survey, Malaysia offers the best health care in the world. You can get a heart bypass surgery in our Government heart hospital free of charge. By the way, I wish to point out that I have a cousin, a British citizen who discovered a lump in her breast. Under British National Health Scheme (NHS), she had to wait one month to see a cancer specialist.

Another issue is the lopsided ethnic composition of the civil service with 78.8% Malay, 6.1% bumiputra Sabah, 4.8% bumiputra Sarawak, 5.2% Chinese and 4.1% Indian as at December 2014.

To cut the story short, let me write down my proposal as follows:

1. Stop the employment of new civil servants and gradually the number will reduce as more and more employees retire to receive pension.

2. The Government should seriously look through the list of employees in each department and give notice for retirement to those redundant employees.

3. As you know, the arm forces personals are doing nothing except eating and sleeping. In fact, almost all of them have never fired a shot except at target practice. Some of them should replace the foreign workers in the FELDA plantations.

4. Implement the NEP as originally proposed to eradicate poverty on a non-racial basis. It should not be exclusively for Bumiputeras. If some non-Malays are employed in the civil service it will improve its efficiency. Managing the country is like managing hundreds of companies in doing various kind of businesses.

5. The Government must practice meritocracy in the selection and promotion of employees. By this way, the whole civil service will improve and less employees are required.

6. Education is the key for success in every nation and teachers play a very important part. Currently almost all the teachers are Malays. The Government should not employ teachers based on race but based on meritocracy.

I hope leaders of Pakatan Harapan will read my article so that they will implement my proposal for the reduction and improvement of our civil service.

I also hope readers will circulate my article to all their contacts and eventually reach our PM Tun Dr Mahathir who has the power to change the current system.