World Bank ranking commendable

The government and the civil service must be congratulated for moving up five positions to 18 out of 183 countries in the World Bank’s 2012 Report on Doing Business. It is commendable and Pemudah under co-chairmen Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan and Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon must be given special credit for their diligence in promoting greater efficiency in the public service.

But as the Chief Secretary to the Government has rightly said, “there is still a lot of work to do”. This must not be a flash in the pan and the result must be sustained to ensure that our competitiveness continues to improve, in our national interest.

For this to happen, there must be more structural changes in public administration. While the introduction of “electronic filing” can help us raise our scores, the basic quality of the civil service must be strengthened. This can be achieved through inter alia the recruitment of a more balanced racial mix and better qualified staff, the removal of so-called Little Napoleons, the reduction of any political interference in implementation and the enhancement of professionalism and pride in the service.

It is also important to raise the integrity, productivity and terms and conditions of civil servants to make them more competitive with the private sector. Performers should be better recognised and rewarded and laggards phased out as in the private sector.

The call for the private sector to reduce bureaucracy and improve its efficiency is also valid. If our businessmen are less competitive globally, the country suffers low growth and high inflation.

But the business sector has a comparative advantage in that if a company is not competitive, it will lose profits and may even have to close down. Unfortunately civil servants are not subject to this severe market discipline. Hence the government must monitor civil service performance more seriously if it is to gain public support.

The government can also help the private sector become more efficient by reducing the protection of monopolistic practices and introducing more liberal and competitive policies and practices. Perhaps the newly established Competition Commission will help the business sector and protected GLCs become more competitive.

This higher ranking should give us more confidence and the determination to compare ourselves with counties that have consistently scored higher than us.

Article published in The Sun.

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