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Sakmongkol ak 47

Monday, 27 September 2010

Government support system and the ETP

The executive summary of the NEM says, vision 2020 is not possible without economic, social and governmental transformation. I am not trying to run down the 10 people who sat as members in creating the thick document, but this fact is already a known parameter. Its belaboring the obvious.
We have known for example, the secret of good government is good people. By good people we mean, qualified, dedicated and determined civil service. Consisting of people who understand the mission of this country is to provide solutions to the public.
I hope Najib's plan's for Malaysia, impregnated with a myriad of acronyms, will bear fruition. This country must never be deluded into believing, that we can progress based on some catchy phrases. Why don't we just shut up and just do it? The whole reason for being in power and we putting others in power is so that they can manage our economy well. Don't care how we want to measure it- we just want better opportunities, better material wellbeing, housing, jobs and business opportunities. We can get diarrhea with a diet of so many phrases.
Let's ask some awkward questions. What is the proportion of the ETP that is focused on solving economic problems of the poor? We seemed to be talking more about large infra jobs which are spoken for by the big players; we have these businesses probably underwritten by CIMB, we have BOs that are also probably reserved for some people. What about linking economically depressed region such as in Kelantan and Terengganu to the mainstream? Invigorate business activities there and promote small businesses. How much is allocated to small and medium sized businesses?
We are not aware of this emphasis because the whole plan is from, by and for the elite.
I have written, if the government is serious about income distribution, impose a moratorium on the big players- Berjayas YTLs, SP Setias, and all others. We are simply tired of reading about the same people being given big deals- MRCB, Gamuda, MMC and all these. You mean after all these salad day years, they are still not able to compete in the open market? Yet at the same time, we are asking the public, the outsiders to compete on their own?
The ETP show is about mesmerizing people that something is afoot but as often the case, everything has been decided.
Let's start with the GTP- Government Transformation Program. In the previous administration, this was the bane of governance. Delivery system which is fouled up by little napoleons. Those pesky, overbearing and pretending to be clever civil servants.
How do we transform the civil service? By dishing out palliatives, afraid of saying things as they are?
The immediate solution in my mind, is to open up the civil service for talented people. I suspect, that many in the civil service got to where they are today, because the civil service was the only avenue for career opened to them. They wouldn't make it in the non civil service for the simple reason they are not qualified enough.
We can't do anything about this anymore. We can't fire them. But we can determine the future profiling. Make the entry qualifications to enter government service higher. I mean higher across the board. To ensure the services by the government are delivered by qualified people. Let's stop being sentimental about this. Government service shouldn't be treated as dumping ground for academic rejects and mediocre material. Lets demand a certain high standard and ensure we bring in talent that supports that demand for high standards.
Will this step run afoul with article 153 of the constitution? That article does indeed stipulate that certain positions are to be filled by Bumiputeras. It didn't say however that they must be filled by ANY Bumiputera. Why not better qualified Bumiputeras? We cannot believe that after so many years and after donkey years of churning out degree holders, there aren't a critical mass of better qualified Bumiputeras? Let them hold top positions. But insist the other positions be filled up by good talent.
You simply can't improve the delivery of services using mediocre talent.
What has the government done to improve efficiency and competence of government servants? There isn't really competition there if the service is dominated by one race. There isn't sufficient quality if the entry level qualifications are so so. Yet each year, to placate civil servants the PM will appear on TV to say, we honor our civil servants because they have done a good job , blah blah. Which is not entirely true. The service is slow, the quality of officers is questionable.
Those people talking about the GTP have not talked openly about the issue of talent in the civil service and in government. If we don't open up our civil service, it will atrophy. It is a simple observation of experience. If we don't open up and cultivate competition to get into government service, we get what ails our service now- little Napoleonism. The imposition of pettiness by mediocre talent that fouls up delivery service.


Anonymous,  27 September 2010 at 23:06  

I give you an A+ or 100/100 for this essay.
Thank you for calling a spade a spade.

OneMalaysian,  27 September 2010 at 23:08  

Dear Sakmongkol

“The ETP show is about mesmerizing people that something is afoot but as often the case, everything has been decided”.

The grapevine has it that Gamuda/MMC is half way to completing the DESIGN of the MRT project. This means that they are not merely intending to be one of several interested contractors but is undertaking the design work. How could any responsible government abdicate its duty to plan and design, and secretly ask a potential contractor to do the planning and design, and then allowing it to tender – and of course give it the job. This is cronyism at its best! Ditto the other major infrastructure jobs (YTL was working on a proposal for the high speed rail).

So I think the ETP will be nothing much more than some expensive, massively over-priced contracts. As for the SMEs they will have to fend for themselves, as always.

You have rightly highlighted the deficiencies in the civil service – the quality of personnel. The civil service has become the dumping ground for graduates (especially those who are mono-lingual, liberal arts graduates) who otherwise cannot find work in the competitive commercial world that demands hard work and multi-lingual skills. The talented, better-trained and multi-lingual Malays are all in the private sector. So if there were no reform of the civil service it would impede rather than facilitate economic progress. But politics will almost ensure than this regressive policy stays.

I am concerned that poverty reduction will once again suffer the same fate as in the past 53 years. This bottom 40% needs all the help that we can give. If they are left behind it would create a festering social problem that would derail any residual hope of us ever reaching high-income status – no high-income country has 40% of its people wallowing in poverty.

Anonymous,  28 September 2010 at 08:57  

Dato' Sak,

I don't think we can bear to put up with another ACRONYM....

At the rates the Acronyms are piling up the population will be totally lost for words and they will begin to become as meaningful as the the alphabet ABC...

Joe Black

Anonymous,  28 September 2010 at 09:27  

we have become like Indoensian with their daily life..

John White

Anonymous,  28 September 2010 at 09:45  

Dear Dato’ SAK,

To be fair, civil servants aren’t all to be blame. When we speak about talents and qualifications in the civil service, we need to know if there is any tool in their system that can appreciate these qualities. What talents and qualifications could do when in a meeting they are told by their bosses that this minister wants this thing to be implemented this way, instead of asking how and what is the best way to implement it? When the decision on that matter is pre-determined, are you not seeing that a meeting is not more than a tool to “legalize” those decisions? The effect then, no place for talents and innovations. So, if we are to ask what we are asking, then we need to ensure that that is viable in the system. Many may had bad experience when dealing with civil servant, but I can assure you that they are improving a lot better now. By the way, have you ever heard the phrase ‘over-worked and under-paid’? That applies to most civil servants right now.

OneMalaysian,  28 September 2010 at 10:45  

Dear Sakmongkol

We rail against cronyism – and now we are staring at a few more massive crony-related projects under the ETP – yet have we asked what is the nexus between these cronies, politicians and the government in power? Is it a symbiotic relationship so pithily expressed by Najib in Sarawak: Lu tolong sama saya, saya tolong same lu”? Have all those expensive non-submerging submarines, expensive fighter jets and over-budgetted highways numbed us into a state of stupor that we don’t care any more? We are not against useful, and growth enhancing infrastructure projects, but what riles fair-minded Malaysians is the blatant way in which these projects are turned into honey pots for unscrupulous people in government and outside it. We should not tolerate a government that is kept in power by ill-gotten money “donated” by such cronies.

Melayu Bary,  28 September 2010 at 12:04  

Assalamualaikum Dato' Sak,

I have read and re read your many articles on ETP.

Your objective readers and debaters have no disagreement over your arguments. Any sane, thinking person will agree with your observations.

As critical as you are on them, the sad realization is that the very people which make those plans live on a different universe.

They have a penchant for fluff. Never mind the reality - the grandiose pie in the sky number, the confusing acronyms, and the supposed benefits are being peddled everyday to the masses. Once in a while, buy newspaper space and blow their own trumpets.

The bigger issue is this - what can we do about it?

Do we let the government another bite at the cherry when previous experiments have shown to be ineffective? Now, with higher stake, do we let the government continue to raid Petronas monies? Will we let the government gamble with our EPF money? Do we let the same fat cat fatter?

What do we do as an individual? Or your readers as a collective group? Will we continue to write, debate and analyze, when all we do is stating the obvious? Do we wait until the day when the government failed again and look at these writings and say 'I told you so'?

If we do not like it in its current form, what do we do? Where's the forum to make our voices heard?

So many questions, so little time for the wheeler dealer have make their rounds.

I say that we abandon the current regime. Change, being the key word.

Change the government that have no respect for its citizen. Change the people that boss over the everyone else as their birthright. Change the course of this country to make it successful.

You know the end result of this GTP. And you have a lot of disagreement in it. Why not consider the alternative? Put on a contrarian view on your blogs - explore the life, people and possibilities on the other side - as a mental exercise?

For when this fails, our young sons and daughters will inherit it. We borrowed their future, and current ilks will destroy theirs.

When this fail, race doesnt matter anymore - we will be enslaved by the haves which are not even Malaysian.

Do we take the risk?

Anonymous,  28 September 2010 at 14:11  


You said it right. It is already proven that unqualified people such as the DPM cum Education Minister himself said that he is powerless to act against the two school principals for their indisciplined and immatured comments/slurs. When the 2nd most senior civil servant in the country does not possesses the abilities to act in his capacity as DPM cum Education Minister, what hope is there for the rest of the civil servants to be able top perform their duties/functions properly?

OneMalaysian,  28 September 2010 at 14:41  

Dear Sakmongkol

Melayu Baru has made an impassioned plea that we all do something, besides just whining away. If we do not do something we would be selling our children’s future short – a very apt way to put it indeed.

I have advocated on your blog that it does not matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice. So it should not matter if it is an UNMO/BN government or a PR government, so long as it delivers the goods and make our lives better. The Malays must not believe that only an UMNO-led government will be able to protect their interest; after 53 years, the ordinary Malays have got little to show, whilst Malay politicians and their cronies have enriched themselves whilst playing the racial card against the non-Malays. Look around us. Marcos was Filipino and what has happened to their people (think maids); Suharto was Indonesian and what has happened to Indonesians (think maids and construction laborers); Myanmar generals are Burmese and what happened to that luckless country (think restaurant workers). So do not buy the argument that just because UMNO leaders are Malay they will automatically look after the Malay interest.

What we desperately need is to ensure that there is a viable alternative to UMNO/BN. We know this from Economics 101 that competition will ensure a better deal for the consumers, that is, us.

Anonymous,  28 September 2010 at 18:17  

I a bit confused. Did the constitution mentioned that government/GLC head positions must be a Malay?

You said you filled all these positions with Malays guaranteed and other positions with capable Malaysians (all).

Now where are you going to get capable Other races to work for you when there is a glass ceiling and tons of little NAPOLEANS along the ladders up...?

Reality is you would not find capable and talented want to join you in the first place. That means you still compete among your one race.

There is more to it to change the system and make it work than just talking about heading this or that by a race.

The most important criteria is how can we make a workplace a fair to all. How can we change the masses of BTN trained heads of departments to be open minded and fair when they evaluate their staff? No you cant for all practical purposes, change this. It is impossible.

So let us sit tight and let fate decides where we shall and in the end. Meanwhile the exodus will continue and Workbank has said we lack human capital. This in spite our our country has spent the highest amount compared to other countries per person on human develoment. Where did the money went? We all know.

What happened to the intended 200,000 Uitm graduates per year as announced by the PM a year ago? Aint they human capital and yet investors are not able to find the need staff. Why?

There is just no way, as long as the BTN trained heads do not change, there will be any solution.

We need to wait for a few years to see how a Chinaman runs a state... Look at Penang and just watch. Is it a coincidence that UMNO/Utusan are both attacking LGE day in and day out. ONly targetting Penang. Why?

It is going to show how an honest Chinaman who takes no bribe but works tirelessly for his state will transform that state to new heights.

Just wait ...

charis14,  28 September 2010 at 23:08  

Dear Sakmongkol,

Your call for talented people to be recuited is unlikely to work (even for talented Bumis) for the following reasons :
- they will end up doing most of the tasks, get demoralised and quit for greener pastures
- due to the high salary burden in the civil service, it is unlikely for the top talents to be adequately rewarded as compared to either the private sector or self employment
- to protect their own rice bowls and promotion opportunities, most existing dept heads are unlikely to be selfless in helping these top talents leap-frog past them.

The solution still lies in tackling the root, i.e. Malaysia's mass production of 'unusable' graduates. This has 'forced' the govt to transform the civil service to become a social employment agency. If the govt had channeled more students towards other career directions e.g. vehicle repair or trading, then they could learn to be independent eventually.

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