It seems our prime ministers have a penchant for appointing special advisers at a fee.
While Abdullah Badawi’s government had only one such appointment in place, the current Ismail Sabri Yaakob government steals the prize by hiring five special advisers, costing RM136,136 a month. This will cost the public RM3.3m over their full two-year tenure.
Ismail Sabri has outdone his predecessor, who had four such advisors at a total cost of RM99,886 a month.
Many are asking, why does a prime minister need an ever-expanding team of special advisers? Are our rows of opposition MPs not raising enough concerns for the PM’s urgent attention and redress? Are the many ministers, deputy ministers and chief secretaries of the various ministries not competent enough to provide expert advice?
Isn’t every minister and deputy minister (sometimes two or three in a ministry) efficient and reliable enough to provide enlightened advice to the government? What about the wagonloads of civil servants with masters and doctorate credentials – thanks to past governments’ spending on their foreign education?
If Ismail Sabri has to spend so much public money to have access to learned advice, then why do we need a huge team of ministers, deputy ministers and special senior civil servants to assist the ministers and their deputies?
Under these circumstances, can we justify paying higher salaries and dishing out an array of incentives and perks to all our MPs?
Why can’t the government tap the wisdom and expertise of scientists, economists, financial wizards and legal eagles who are members of established professional bodies and institutions? Why not consult the many learned minds within some of our leading universities, especially those who are internationally respected?
Let us not forget that netizens from all walks of life and fields of expertise often volunteer their time to critique, advise and make suggestions through letters to the press. Could the Ismail Sabri government consider such invaluable feedback?
Why is the government not even capable of tapping into the “networked society” (Emmanuel Castel) that forms the roadmap for many good governments around the world?
Our country has one of the world’s largest civil services per capita. It probably is among those countries with the most ministers and political appointees too. And now we have this trend of hiring ‘special advisers’ in increasing numbers and at higher costs.
Try asking for financial help or relief from the various ministries and see for yourself what the answer is likely to be. Many among the credible NGOs and associations set up to help navigate industry and society for example will attest that either their request for help goes unanswered or they get a reply to the effect that “owing to the Covid pandemic, the government is low on budgets and therefore unable to assist”.
While many other political leaders and politicians around the world try to live simple lifestyles within their salaries and perks, our PM seems to be on a hiring spree that no one seems able to put the brake on.