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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pemandu should be scrapped if not driving economy, say lawmakers

The Malaysian economy is still centred on mega-projects and government agency Pemandu’s objective of nurturing skilled technical expertise looks like an unrealistic goal, say its critics. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 6, 2014.The Malaysian economy is still centred on mega-projects and government agency Pemandu’s objective of nurturing skilled technical expertise looks like an unrealistic goal, say its critics. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 6, 2014.
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers have joined a Barisan Nasional (BN) colleague to question whether government efficiency unit Pemandu should be cut in size or scrapped altogether if it causes friction in the federal civil service.
They also argue that Pemandu, which stands for the Performance Management and Delivery Unit, has not lived up to its promise of helping Malaysia reform the economy by moving away from growth centred on mega-projects.
The body is also seen as redundant as many of the initiatives in the Economic and Government Transformation Programmes (ETP and GTP) have already been launched, said Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming.
Both lawmakers have added their voices to a call from a BN MP Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir, who recently criticised Putrajaya's use of Pemandu as the main driver of critical government policies.
Redundant role?
Ong points to Pemandu chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala’s own claim that Pemandu would be redundant once it was successful at helping the government develop new ways of generating growth.
In a June 2013 report, Jala was quoted as saying that Pemandu's role would change markedly as these activities gained traction and that it would become redundant with the success in implementing these “sustainability waves”.
If by now Pemandu has successfully rolled out the ETP and GTP programmes, Ong said, the government must justify why the agency should not be downsized.
“If the programmes are already up and running, if the structures are in place and all you have to do is monitor their progress, why shouldn’t it be cut down in size?”
Instead, he said, the agency was still receiving the same amount of money next year as it did this year.
Pemandu received an allocation of RM39.2 million this year, and RM42 million under Budget 2015.
The unit was formed in September 2009 under the Prime Minister's Department.
According to its website, the unit’s main role and aim is to oversee the implementation, assess the progress, facilitate as well as support the delivery and drive the progress of the GTP and ETP.
Last year, Ong questioned the amount of money Datuk Seri Najib Razak's administration was paying Pemandu directors, with some earning more than RM30,000 a month.
Conversely, if the government felt that it still needed to maintain Pemandu at its present size, then the question should be why hadn't the unit achieved its aims, said Ong.
When it came to targets, Ong had in 2012, criticised the unit for trying to set goals that the country would achieve even without Pemandu.
One such goal is Pemandu’s aim of increasing the country’s gross national income (GNI) per capita to RM48,000 by 2020.
In reality, Ong said, Malaysia would have reached the target based on its natural income growth rate of the past 10 years.
Duplication causing friction
On October 29, Kulim-Bandar Bahru MP Aziz said Pemandu’s functions were overlapping with those of certain ministries.
These ministries felt that Pemandu had overtaken their roles and this has caused a rift between them, he said.
"There is no proper communication with ministries. There is a lot of overlap and its directives are not clear," Aziz had told reporters at Parliament.
Kluang MP Liew took up Aziz's statement, saying Pemandu was essentially an external entity that was superimposed on the existing government machinery.
“Instead of genuinely reforming the civil service, the administration put in a parachute unit to solve its problems.
“Pemandu has duplicated the work of the Economic Planning Unit and the Treasury, which in reality are two powerful bodies for crafting policy,” said Liew.
The addition of another entity on top of the pre-existing civil service structure has caused friction between it and government officers, and made the government machinery as a whole, more unwieldy, he said.
“Pemandu looks like it just does PR (public relations) work while its employees are paid private sector salaries.”
Problem solvers and project evaluators
Deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim has defended Pemandu’s overlapping of functions with other government agencies. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 6, 2014.Deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim has defended Pemandu’s overlapping of functions with other government agencies. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, November 6, 2014.
A Pemandu spokesperson responded to The Malaysian Insider's queries about Aziz's statement by referring to the answer given by a deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Razali Ibrahim.
Pemandu was still needed to speed up implementation of projects under the GRP and ETP, Razali had said when winding up the debate on the Supply Bill 2015 in the Dewan Rakyat earlier this week.
Pemandu's method was the "Big Fast Results (BFR)" way, and this included providing assistance to the ministries to find quick solutions as well as evaluating the progress of government programmes.
"Inevitably, there will be overlapping of functions among the agencies," Razali said, adding that "with cooperation and understanding", problems in the public delivery system could be solved.
Big projects don't mean real growth
This does not answer in detail the concerns raised, but the spokesperson said Pemandu would stick to the official answer given by the deputy minister and comment no further.
The worse part about Pemandu, said Liew, was how it and the Putrajaya were failing to put Malaysia on a path where the Southeast Asian country of 30 million people could escape the middle-income trap.

The GTP and ETP were not enough to achieve this goal compared with the New Economic Model which Najib had first proposed in March 2010, said Liew.
“I had agreed with 90% of the NEM. It wanted to move the economy away from being labour intensive, it wanted to help the bottom 40% of the population, it wanted to wean us off depending too much on foreign investment to unlock our technical talent.
“The ETP and GTP fall short of that. It continues the Mahathirist model of development of depending on mega-projects.
“You put down RM50 billion worth of projects and call that growth. That is unsustainable.”
- TMI

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