Former Treasury secretary-general Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim today suggested the government to cut down the "oversized" civil service when it can still afford it.
"I would say, although it may cost the government heavy expenditure to retrench (civil servants), it is worthwhile to do it now when we can still afford it, rather than waiting until we are forced into a financial crisis like what happened in Greece," he said, citing the European nation which abruptly cut down its civil service to reduce its operations expenditure when it was hit hard, economically.
Retrenching civil servants now would also be a kinder approach, as it would allow them to be compensated fairly, Sheriff told a economic governance forum in Sasana Kijang, Bank Negara today.
He said the country's bloated civil service has created inefficiencies in the economy and failures in the financial disciplines of ministries and government departments.
Sheriff joked that Malaysia should emulate US President Donald Trump in downsizing its civil service.
"Since all (our) previous attempts to downsize (the civil service) had not succeeded, maybe we should follow Donald Trump, who had said he wants to reduce the size of the civil service in Washington, which was creating too much bureaucracy, crippling the economy and burdening the federal budget.
"There was an instruction from Trump that for every new department or agency created, two must be closed down.
"I think if we adopt this instruction clearly, it will make ministries think twice before they come to the Public Services Department," he said.
Malaysia currently has 1.6 million civil servants and the government has to allocate RM76 billion annually on salaries and allowances. Another RM21.6 billion is spent on pensions.
Sheriff served as secretary-general of the Treasury between 1991 and 1994, and was later the managing director of Khazanah Nasional Berhad for nine years.
He now sit in the board of Plus Malaysia Berhad, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Berhad, and Scientex Berhad.
The forum was organised by the Malaysian Economic Association (MEA), formed by a group of economists in 1962. Sheriff is also MEA ex-president.- Mkini