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Budget perks for civil servants won’t go far

PETALING JAYA: Although civil servants appear to have benefited from Budget 2018, a think tank warns that the perks allocated by the government will not go far and may in fact have a negative impact on the civil service.

Tricia Yeoh, who is chief operating officer of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), said the amount assigned for civil servants’ salaries had risen from RM42 billion in Budget 2010 to RM78.1 billion in Budget 2018.

“Unfortunately, these benefits do not necessarily translate into an attractive package that brings the best and brightest of Malaysian talent into the civil service.

“In fact, the concern is quite the opposite; the benefits may instead incentivise those who prefer a comfortable job to stay on over those who prefer a merit-based system that rewards talent and effort,” she said in a commentary carried by Channel NewsAsia.

Budget 2018, announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak last month, included a one-off payment of RM1,500 for civil servants, a second time-based promotion for support staff who received their last promotion 13 years ago, and full retirement benefits for senior servants who retire due to health reasons.

Special leave for teachers was increased from seven days a year to 10, while maternity leave was increased to 360 days from 300 throughout service with a maximum of 90 days a year.

Women at least five months pregnant will also be allowed to leave work an hour earlier.

Yeoh said the perks were likely because the government could not afford to upset civil servants, who form 12% of registered voters, ahead of the 14th general election (GE14).

She added that the majority of civil servants were Malay, a key target demography for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

In February, reports said Malaysia had the most bloated civil service in the world, at 1.6 million.

According to Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani, the ratio was one civil servant for every 19.37 people in the country.

This was in contrast with the proportion of civil servants to the national population of other countries such as Singapore (1:71.4), Indonesia (1:110), Korea (1:50), China (1:108), Japan (1:28), Russia (1:84) and the UK (1:118).

Johari was reported as saying that Malaysia’s bloated civil service had caused government expenditure to rise yearly.

However, he added that the government had no plans to reduce the number of civil servants.

Yeoh pointed to analysts who had cautioned that the increasing amount of funds needed to service the 1.6 million workers was not fiscally sustainable in the long run.

She added that the benefits announced in Budget 2018 would not stave off the people’s economic burdens for long.

“A one-off payment of RM1,500 will hardly last an average Malaysian household of five people very long,” she said.

“Maternity benefits may be welcome relief – and in fact these are forward-thinking measures that help women cope better in the workplace – but they will not adequately line families’ pockets with the extra income they require.”

In April, the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) warned that over 49,000 civil servants could face bankruptcy following their failure in managing loan arrears.

Cuepacs president Azih Muda said then that over 3,000 civil servants had already been declared bankrupt, and warned that the numbers would increase if the problem was not addressed.

Last year, Cuepacs said between 700,000 and 800,000 civil servants fell in the bottom 40% (B40) category.

First published for freemalaysiatoday, 20 November 2017

Tricia Yeoh

Tricia Yeoh is Chief Operating Officer of IDEAS (on study leave). She was formerly Research Officer to the Selangor Menteri Besar at the Selangor State Government and Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies, ASLI. She is a regular columnist at theSun.

2017-11-21T01:56:41+00:00 21st November 2017|Opinion|Comments Off on Budget perks for civil servants won’t go far