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A perspective on the ‘bloated civil service’

Any national conversation on the size of Malaysia's public services must be grounded on reliable data and verifiable information sources

Photograph: mole.my

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By Jayanath Appudurai

Recently Minister Rafizi Ramli expressed his view on the “polemik saiz penjawat awam yang besar”.

This sparked a flurry of comments from expert commentators and netizens alike.

First, all ‘civil servants’ are public servants, but not all public servants are civil servants!

Article 132(1) of the Federal Constitution defines the public services to include the armed forces, the judicial and legal service, the general public service of the federation, the police force, the education service, the public services of each state, and the joint public services mentioned in Article 133.

By definition, members of the armed forces, the judicial and legal service, the police force and the education service are public but not civil servants.

The aim of this piece is to provide verifiable data to inform the current debate on the number of ‘public servants’ correctly described by the minister as “penjawat awam”.

The federal establishment list provides the full list of posts by schemes and service classifications. The data is summarised in the tables below.

Some key points to note:

  • The total number of federal posts not including “members of administration” is 1,399,775
  • 456,207 (75%) of the professional and managerial posts are in the education service
  • Almost 87% of the total 1.4 million posts are taken up by education, health, internal security and defence services

Some pertinent points to frame any discussion on issues of quantity, quality, efficiency, effectiveness:

  • The education service caters for five million school children and 600,000 tertiary level students. The service makes up 40% of the public service posts and accounts for RM44.7bn (47%) of the total federal government emoluments of RM95.6bn. Are the outputs and outcomes of education as a public service commensurate with the resources allocated?
  • The health service caters for about 70% of the 32 million population. It accounts for 21% of posts and 23% of total emoluments. Is the resource allocation adequate to meet the current and future needs of the population?
  • The armed forces (defence) entrusted to defend the realm takes up 12% of posts and accounts for 8.5% of total emoluments. Is this too high a price to pay for protecting the people’s lives and the sovereignty of the nation?
  • The internal security service entrusted with safeguarding public order and the safety of citizens, migrant workers and visitors to the country takes up 14% of posts and 10.4% of total emoluments. Are the services provided in a transparent and accountable manner?
READ MORE:  Satu perspektif mengenai saiz penjawat awam

Any national conversation on our public services and “saiz penjawat awam” (size of the public service) must be conducted in a civil, rational and dispassionate manner. Most importantly, it must be grounded on reliable data and verifiable information sources.

 Jayanath Appudurai is from Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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