By TK Chua
When politicians engage in endless quarrels, policy issues go on autopilot. I am referring to the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) and its recent shenanigans.
First Cuepacs demanded PTPTN go slow when recovering loans from government servants. Then it defended the right of civil servants to borrow endlessly – from the government, banks, cooperatives and now even from Ah Long. They presented their arguments as if civil servants were the only ones having to confront the dilemma of insufficient income versus the high cost of living.
Now Cuepacs is protesting the freeze in new jobs in the civil service, arguing that the measure will have serious social and economic implications on the economy.
Since when did Cuepacs ever offer one good suggestion other than its myopic demands that are more about self-preservation?
Please grow up, Cuepacs. The government is not your uncle able to continue creating unlimited, meaningless jobs in the public sector. Yes, please get it right – many “jobs” in the public sector are not only unproductive, they are outright meaningless. They add nothing but disservice to the economy. Hence, by reducing the number of jobs in the public service, economic output may actually go up.
Having nearly two million civil servants in the public service is an indication that Malaysia is not a country facing a labour shortage. Yet we have allowed millions of foreign workers into the country to do the jobs we Malaysians should be doing. Tacitly, we have allowed the civil service to expand to absorb our unwanted workers.
Have we ever asked why the number of civil servants has continued to increase when we have privatisation, outsourcing and an increasing number of consultants? Just look at JKR (Public Works Department). In the past, this department was the lifeblood of government infrastructure development. It handled everything in-house such as maintaining roads, government vehicles, schools, hospitals and office buildings throughout the country. May I know what the department is doing now despite its increasing number of engineers and technicians with stratosphere grades?
The same applies to government hospitals. How many hospital services have been outsourced to private contractors with dire consequences? Have we not heard of lifts and air conditioning units in ICUs not working recently? Outsourcing, if not properly implemented, is a form of transferring inefficiency from government departments to private contractors with an added layer of corruption thrown in.
Then we have a stream of highly paid consultants, who are supposed to catapult us into a high income economy. But what earth-shattering policies and programmes have they come up with thus far? While consultants have a field day, the number of superscale officers in civil service has continued to increase at alarming rates.
Former senior government servants may be able to testify to this. In the past, major government policies and programmes, including the New Economic Policy, were formulated and drafted by government servants. Now may I know what senior government servants are doing each day other than farming out work to consultants, some of whom are still wet behind the ears?
Public service is an economic function. Public servants must do meaningful work, not just pretend to work. There is only so much “slack” an economy can take. I think we have reached the tipping point.
So stop the nonsense, Cuepacs – it is time to make the civil service lean and mean again.
TK Chua is an FMT reader.