In search of good governance

Reinventing what government is in Malaysia, and what it means to Malaysians.

Murray Hunter, FMT

It doesn’t matter whether the government is reformist or Islam-centric, as long there is good governance.

Good governance means different things to different people, but the bottom-line must be about making the best use of resources to produce outcomes that meet the needs of society.

This could mean steering towards a secular and inclusive model of government.

This would assist any government that is undertaking daily work and planning for future needs and requirements.

There are a number of models that can be looked at. Turkey, Indonesia and even Thailand, have secular government models.

These countries balance their respective state religions with the demands of secular government.

Malaysia must have a leader who can get everyone on board to support project Malaysia.

History has shown this is not an easy feat. Malaysia is situated within the Nusantara archipelago, and its society still strongly reflects this.

The Malay sultanates are a major part of this, as are the Straits Settlements of Penang and Melaka. Sabah and Sarawak have their own cultural, social and political trajectories, but together, they make up what Malaysia is today.

This is Malaysia’s reality and the government must reflect this.

Under such a paradigm, federal-state relations are critical and must be rebalanced after 60 years of purposeful federal government power grabbing.

The Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) must be regenerated into a completely new agreement to reflect the aspirations of Sabah and Sarawak today.

The other states must also be granted space to become more assertive, reflecting their own histories, cultures and social customs today.

The federal government will then become a facilitator of a true federal system, supporting rather than eroding state sovereignties.

This will require a restudy of Malaysian governomics to slim down and revitalise the federal and state administrations effectively.

At one to 19, Malaysia has the world’s highest ratio of civil servants to total population.

Next is South Korea at 1:44, followed by Japan at 1:46, Taiwan at 1:61, Singapore at 1:65, the US at 1:114 and the UK at 1:133.

Malaysia has 1.7 million civil servants for a population of 32 million. The UK has 500,000 civil servants for a population of 67 million people.

There is a lot Malaysia can do to streamline the government and drastically cut the size of the federal budget to bring back surpluses, and have more funds to eradicate poverty, enhance the quality of healthcare and education, and pay off public debt, which will result in lower taxes in the future.

Malaysians want an empathetic government.

The St Regis Hotel assault, the Selangor demand-responsive transit issue, the Kampung Sri Makmur demolition, rising utility prices and increasing press censorship appear arrogant to a population still struggling from effects of the Covid-19 era pandemic and rising grocery prices.

Many are disappointed that a government incorporating Pakatan Harapan should be just as arrogant as previous Barisan Nasional governments.

Finally, Malaysia must have a shared vision. This was part of the reason the Dr Mahathir Mohamad government was successful in the 1980s and 90s.

Wawasan 2020 became a shared vision, which Malaysians at the time identified with. The Madani branding has not created the same effect.

This is something for the current government to consider, the creation of a shared vision that Malaysians can identify with and share ownership.