Raise must come with higher productivity
While civil servants have a right to expect a raise, any increment in salary should be tied to an equitable increase in productivity.
In line with this, the government must find a way to measure productivity of its employees, according to public policy expert Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam.
Ramon, who is chairman of the Centre for Public Policy at the Asia Strategy and Leadership Institute, said that in all fairness, every civil servant should have a report card on his performance and that report card should be made public.
“Cuepacs (Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services) may want the government to raise salaries, but it should also explain how productivity can be increased,” he told the Sun. “After all, money does not grow on trees. Cuepacs must show the way.”
Ramon was commenting on a call by Cuepacs for the government to review the Malaysian Remuneration System for civil service to meet current economic needs and cost of living.
According to Cuepacs, the starting monthly salary of civil servants should be raised from RM1,200 to RM1,800 in line with the revision of the poverty line to RM2,208.
It claimed that half of the 1.62 million civil servants are in Grade 40 and below where remuneration starts at RM1,200.
Cuepacs president Adnan Mat said a salary revision is essential to ensure that civil servants earn enough to cover living expenses.
Ramon proposed that a royal commission be set up to look into the salary scheme, terms and conditions as well as the size of the civil service.
He also highlighted the fact that the government has enlarged the civil service workforce without giving enough consideration for the need to evaluate productivity.
Nonetheless, he agreed that the minimum starting salary at RM1,200 is too low. But, he stressed, if the government agrees to an increase, it should be done progressively.
“In principle I agree to an increase but due to a large number of pensioners that the government has to bear, we may not be able to sustain it.”
Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng said it would be too costly to revise the starting pay of civil servants.
“Rather than raise salaries, the government could raise allowances, but progressively, to ensure low-income earners get a reasonable take home pay.”
Lim said that in view of their worsening financial situation, the government should raise allowances to the point where the lowest paid civil servants could take home at least RM2,000 a month.
“It should be done progressively so that there is no sudden increase in the government’s salary bill.”
This article was originally published on April 13, 2021 in The Sun.