The Malaysian civil service is not overworked and underpaid

TK Chua, Free Malaysia Today

When Cabinet ministers and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim support the critical service allowance (BIPK), does this mean the decision to discontinue the payment for new recruits to the civil service is a wrong decision?

So many questions may be asked on this issue.

First, when a government department such as the Public Service Department (PSD) issues an important circular, has that decision not been discussed in the Cabinet? If not, why not? If yes, why are a number of ministers questioning the wisdom of the circular on BIPK now? Were they not a party to the decision?

Second, how does the government make a major decision? Does it make a study, table it for discussion and finally decide?

In government, I thought the process is as important as the decision. Usually, in all major decisions, there are Cabinet papers prepared that require feedback and comments from relevant agencies like the Treasury and the Prime Minister’s Department.

Cabinet ministers may influence and seek to amend the decision being considered but once decided, they can’t openly dispute or challenge the decision. This is the essence of collective responsibility which I am sure all ministers are aware. So, where did it go wrong in this case?

Third, when we look at the issues pertaining to BIPK, was the government rational or emotional?

Reforming the government needs bold and clear thinking, not populist emotion.

I think the decision to withdraw BIPK is a correct and fair decision based on rationale and economic reality. We can’t continue using allowances as proxies to clandestinely increase the pay of civil servants. In fact, over the years, there have been too many of this occurring.

Contrary to general belief, the civil service, including those from the so-called critical agencies, is not overworked and underpaid. The market forces have indicated to us that more people are now attracted to government service than the private sector.

Succumbing to populist demands is, of course, the simplest thing to do. Just give the people what they want and the problem is “solved”.

But history has shown that a populist government is never a good government. The pay of the civil service, in its current trajectory, is unjustified and unsustainable. Further delay to reform and to restructure will cause the economy more problems.

It is not a coincidence that the ringgit is weak and inflation is high when we have many people getting more than they deserve but producing little. Sometimes we are just too politically correct to state the truth.