Saturday, 26 May 2007

The Issue Of Civil Service

For once it is Oxford vs. Oxford. From Philosophy Politics Economics by Tony Pua.

Finally, I'm getting to the press conference which I conducted this morning ;). It was well attended by the print media, and Malaysiakini has got their reports up in English and in Chinese already. So there should be some coverage in the Chinese papers tonight, as well as possibly the English and Malay press tomorrow.

Below is my 2-page statement in full, so that you can understand the overall context of my response. Understandably, most newspapers won't give you all the space and will only take quotes, which may inadvertently slant the reports. ;)

No Apology For Stating The Facts - Challenge Khairy Jamaluddin To A Public Debate Seeking Truth From Fact Towards "Civil Service Excellence: Quality Vs Quantity" In The Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall On Wednesday 8 pm 30 May 2007.

In my statement dated 22nd May 2007 entitled “Record Pay Rise Solves Only Part of the Civil Service Problem”, I called on the Government to take the “painful but very important step of trimming the civil service sector into a leaner and more efficient 'machine'”.

UMNO Youth Deputy Chief, Khairy Jamaluddin issued a statement published in the Star, Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian yesterday took issue with my comment that the bulging and unwieldy civil service was partly caused by the Government's policy to absorb unemployed graduates. This has resulted in the civil service becoming a “dumping ground” for unemployed graduates. These graduates are also a “politically sensitive constituency” as an large majority of them are Malays.

Khairy claimed that my comments “were totally unacceptable and without basis” and hence sought an apology from the Party and myself.

However, as my previous statement was completely based on facts and figures provided by the government, we see absolutely no necessity to make any apology to the UMNO Deputy Youth Chief. This position is concurred by DAP Secretary-General Sdr Lim Guan Eng based on the following facts:-

On 12 July 2006, the Star reported that “The Public Services Department (PSD) and Public Services Commission have been urged to speed up the recruitment of graduates to fill some 30,000 vacancies in the civil service. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said that this would overcome the problem of unemployed graduates.”

An EPU study on graduate unemployment conducted in September 2005 estimated that out of the unemployed pool of some 60,000 graduates then, some 70% or more were bumiputeras. This was also confirmed in the same Star article above, by the Deputy Prime Minister himself.

Hence, I'm unable to understand how the comment I made was without basis. He claimed that my “comments about the civil service can cause considerable damage to the morale and image of the public sector.”

Instead, I'd like to put forth instead that the Government's policy of absorbing these unemployed graduates, by acting as an employer of the last resort, is one of the reasons for considerable damage to the morale of the existing and senior civil servants, as well as the image of the public sector.

Criticising such a short-sighted policy of taking in unemployed graduates is also not akin to rubbishing the entire civil service as unemployable or of poor quality.

Therefore no apology shall be forthcoming for stating the facts and challenge Khairy to seek truth from facts with a public debate on "Civil Service Excellence - Quality Vs Quantity" on Wednesday 8pm 30 May in the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall or at any place and time of his choosing.

Constructive criticism of Government policy towards the Civil Service is neither a racial issue nor an insult to civil servants.

In addition, Khairy should also read the entire statement to put my comments into context.

We fully support the pay increment for the civil service. In fact, the DAP leaders have made our stand known repeatedly in the past the it was an absolute travesty that the basic wage our lowest ranking civil servants of RM481 are well below the Malaysian poverty line of RM691. Even the lowest ranking constable in our Royal Malaysian Police Force was only RM690 previously.

At the same time, I lamented on the fact that despite the massive and many privatisation exercises conducted throughout the past 2 decades, of which a leaner and more efficient civil service of approximately 500,000 personnel was one of its key objectives, today the number of personnel exceeds more than double that target. This is one of the major failure of the Malaysian privatisation campaign for not reducing the heaving burden of the Government.

At the same time, we emphasised the fact that the record increase in pay will be “a waste of public funds, if the move is not accompanied by a corresponding increase in civil service productivity”. The weaknesses in the civil service can be seen on a daily basis, and certainly needs no lengthy elaboration.

The unacceptable large building cracks in brand new government buildings as well as highways, the embarrassing leakages on the newly and expensively renovated Parliament as well as the Jalan Duta mega-court complex as well as the poorly negotiated highway contracts are just the tip of the iceberg of an faltering Public Works Department (PWD).

Complaints made by foreign investors on the bureaucratic investment climate in Malaysia is one of the key causes for a foreign direct investment decline of 45.6% from US$7.3 billion in 1996 to US$3.97 billion 10 years later in 2005. As put forward by Vince Leusner, the president of the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce, "the Malaysian government can do a better job in making regulations less imposing to businesses.” An example of the red tape, foreign investors claim that it can take half a year to get a work permit, compared with less than a week in Singapore.

Singapore, on the other hand, more than doubled their foreign direct investment from US$9.7 billion to US$20.1 billion over the same period. To quote Asian Strategy Leadership Institute director Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said Malaysia cannot be too protective in the world of rapid globalisation. "The world does not owe us a living and we have to struggle to improve at a faster pace or be left behind."

Instead of challenging the Party and myself for an apology and for the benefit of the future of Malays and all other Malaysians, Khairy should do away with emotive arguments as well as semantics, and focus on the issues at hand, that is:

How to prevent our education system from churning out graduates who are unable to gain employment which befit their qualifications despite the large number of advertised vacancies in the market;

How to improve our civil service delivery system to substantially increase the satisfaction of the rakyat and the successful completion of government projects; as well as

How to streamline a bloated civil service, disproportionate to the size of the Malaysian population to reduce the tremendous economic burden of the Government, where all things equal, the budget deficit is expected to increase from the projected 3.4% to a much higher 4.1% caused by the pay increase.

In line with the above, I'd like to issue an open challenge and invitation to the UMNO Deputy Youth Chief to a reasoned, collected and rational debate next Wednesday, 30th May 2007, 8 pm at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. At the same time, we'll be inviting a panel of distinguished speakers who will share their views on the above questions.

In conclusion, I'd like to reiterate that my earlier statement was issued on the basis of facts and statistics provided by the Government itself. Hence, Khairy's call for an apology fails the address the issues highlighted by my statement, is totally unacceptable and without basis.

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