PETALING JAYA: A think tank says it is unlikely that Putrajaya will reduce the size of the civil service although many quarters have spoken of the need for a trimming.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs external relations manager Azrul Mohd Khalib said he didn’t see any probability of Putrajaya mustering the political will to do so in spite of signs that the economy was going into a slump.
Last year, civil service wages cost Malaysia RM70.5 billion, or 25.5% of the federal budget, which Azrul said was “not normal”.
“The civil service is not and should not be a jobs programme,” he said.
Azrul warned that taxpayers would in the long run bear the burden of paying the civil servants’ pensions, gratuities, perks and allowances.
He noted that about 5% of the Malaysian population, or 13% of the working population, were employed by the government and there were currently 600,000 pensioners.
“This is double the civil servant proportion of countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.”
He also compared Malaysia with Britain. Malaysia has 1.6 million civil servants for a population of 30 million, whereas Britain has 393,000 civil servants for a population of 64 million.
“The last time the UK had 1.2 million workers in the public sector was during the Second World War,” he said.
Azrul said the government must realise that it had to begin sacking unproductive and non-performing civil servants.
“What the government needs is an intelligent combination of pay rises, downsizing of lower-level and non-performing staff and smart recruitment.”
The government must seek to hire and retain people with the right experience and credentials, he added.
“Racially preferential policies have no benefit whatsoever and only result in burdening the service with a large number of low performing individuals.”
Recently, Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani pointed out that there was one civil servant for every 19.37 Malaysians.
In comparison, the ratio of civil servants to population in Singapore is 1:71.4; Indonesia 1:110; South Korea 1:50; China 1:108; Japan 1:28; Russia 1:84; and Britain 1:118.
Last Monday, a former director-general of the Economic Planning Unit, Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, urged the government to retrench lower-level staff in the public sector while it could still afford to pay compensation. He warned that the civil service in its current size would be a problem in the event of a financial crisis. -FMT