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Election Watch

Strengthen basic quality of civil service

Source: The Star
Date: 21 October 2011

WE must congratulate the Government and the civil service for moving up five positions to 18th place out of 183 countries in the World Bank’s 2012 Report on Doing Business “A good place to do business” (The Star, Oct 20).

This is very commendable and Pemudah, under co-chairmen Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan and Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon, has to be given special credit for its diligence and dedication in promoting greater efficiency in the public service.

But, as the Chief Secretary has rightly said, “there is still a lot of work to do”. In other words, this must not be a flash in the pan. It must be sustained to ensure that our competitiveness continues to improve in our national interest.

For this to happen, there must be more structural changes in public administration. While the introduction of “electronic filing” can help us raise our scores, the basic quality of the civil service must be strengthened.

This can be achieved through, inter alia, the recruitment of a more balanced racial mix and better qualified staff, the removal of so called Little Napoleons, the reduction of any political interference in implementation, and the enhancement of professionalism and pride in the civil service .

It is also important to raise the integrity, productivity and terms and conditions of the civil servants to make them more competitive with the private sector.

The performers should be better recognised and rewarded, and the laggards phased out, like in the private sector.

The call for the private sector to also reduce bureaucracy and to improve its efficiency is similarly valid. If our businessmen are less competitive globally, the whole country will also suffer from low growth and high inflation.

But the business sector has the comparative advantage in that if a company is not competitive, it will lose profits and may even have to close down.

Unfortunately, civil servants are not subject to this severe market discipline where one has to perform or perish.

Hence the Government will have to monitor its political and civil service performance more seriously if it wants to gain more public support.

The Government can also help the private sector to become more efficient by reducing protection of monopolistic practices and introducing more liberal and competitive policies and practices. Perhaps the newly established Competition Commission will help the business sector and the protected GLCs to be even more competitive.

This new higher World Bank placing should now give us more confidence and commitment to be more determined to compare ourselves with those countries that have consistently scored higher than us. We should thus strive to even excel against them in the spirit of Malaysia Boleh!

TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
Chairman
Centre of Public Policy Studies

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