Civil service as Umno’s fixed deposit or game buster

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Will civil servants fall for what appears to be an extra large carrot being dangled in front of them in the form of pay rises ahead of the general election, wonders Lim Teck Ghee?

Photograph: mole.my

The new civil service renumeration scheme recently announced by the government provides civil servants pay rises of between 7 per cent and 13 per cent. Coming just before the elections expected soon, it is clearly intended to influence the outcome of the elections. Umno leaders see members of the civil service not only as their fixed deposit but also as the key game changer in the elections.

Will the generous pay rise make a difference in voting patterns of civil servants in the country? At first glance, it appears a politically astute move given the disproportionate weight of civil servants in the voting population and the high voting rate that has been associated with this segment of voters.

If we add up the 1.2m civil servants and family members and assume that there is an average of 3-4 voters per civil servant household, this provides a total of 4-5m voters out of the 12m registered voters. The fact that over 80 per cent of civil servants are Malays means that whichever party can win over the Malay civil service vote will take over the reins of political power in the country.

Will this group of voters fall for what appears to be an extra large carrot being dangled in front of them? Already the mainstream papers are carrying the mandatory follow up reports of how appreciative the teachers, police and other government staff are with this government recognition of their contribution to the country’s development and progress through the new salary scheme.

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This, together with the earlier sustained bashing of DAP Tony Pua’s suggestion that the number of civil servants be reduced, appears to have given a decisive edge in the battle for civil service votes to Umno and the Barisan.

Will pay increase move backfire on Umno?

But is it a certainty that the civil service vote will continue to be in the pockets of the present government? Evidence is conflicting. The present generation of civil servants – Malays and non-Malays – are a great deal more discerning and demanding of their elected leaders and the policies needed. They, as with other voters in the country, are aware of how the government is courting their vote and will go to the voting booths fully concerned about the government’s and opposition party’s record on the issues that matter most to them – whether it is in ensuring a rise in their standard of living or fighting corruption or abuse of power. In fact, the timing of the salary increase – so close to the elections – could very well backfire on the government as it can be seen as a blatant attempt to bribe their way into power, with civil servants as their tool.

What could also prove to be problematic for the government are the finer details of the new remuneration system and pay increase, and how it affects each civil service voter. Precise details of the pay increase and how it will apply to each grade are not available yet. According to the Public Services Department Director General, the increases will be based on four principles: hierarchy; talent and experience; position and subject matter; and performance.

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Likely outcome of pay increase

In the past, it was the principle of hierarchy which appeared to have been the most important criterion as pay increases benefited the higher grades most with the lower grades receiving much less. In particular, the lowest-scale group received meagre increases in absolute terms, relegating many of these civil service households into the ranks of the relative and hardcore poor

Not surprisingly under the BN government, with each successive civil service pay reform, the salary differential within the Malaysian civil service has developed to be amongst the more inequitable in the world compared with civil services in other countries when in fact it should be a great deal more equitable, given the paper commitment to the equity principles of the New Economic Policy.

The yawning inequality in civil service pay is likely to become even worse in this new pay revision. If that happens, it will further increase the income inequality in Malaysia, which is already among the worst in the Asian region, as well as internally amongst the Malays, which is the worst amongst the major communities.

The quantum of increase for the higher salaried groups needs to be stringently scrutinised on the basis of national affordability and socio-economic justice. There is a considerable difference between a 10 per cent increase in the RM1000 salary of a lower grade civil servant and a similar percentage increase for a higher grade earning RM8000. A progressive salary increase with the lower scales receiving higher percentages and the higher scales, in particular, super-scales, receiving considerably less is necessary to ensure fairness and equity.

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Members of the public may not be aware that the higher scale civil servants are also the recipients of substantial bonuses, allowances and numerous non-cash perks and lucrative privileges – all of which are not reflected in the monthly salary and accentuate the different treatment accorded to the different grades of the civil service work force.

A holistic review of the civil service – not piecemeal pay increases – is clearly urgently required. At the same time, Cuepacs and other stake holders should press for a comprehensive review of urgent reform issues that have been ignored by the government during the past several decades.

Dr Lim Teck Ghee is director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI).

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Isma

I think, with the recent quite unprecedented open mockery of UMNO and its leeaders by local students, there is a very good chance the spark lit by Bersih 1 and Bersih 2 have started a flame that cannot be extinguished. While UMNO today is merely an illegal carbon copy version of the original UMNO, it still has some legitimacy in the minds of older Malays. However, the number of such older Malays is falling and what is extremely difficult for them is winning the minds of younger, better educated and better connected Malays. It seems to to appear to me their impending doom is almost assured!

charlie chan

if we go by the previous 12 Ge.. the government servants are always behind the coalition but in 2012 it may be different due to the many scandals n a different political environment. the internet has changed the mindset of many citizens< can malaysians CHANGE in 2012???

mark
mark

First of all,we must ask ourself whether these highly paid public officers are they being properly appointed accordingly to their executive ability and leadership?Are they appointed because of political connection? We saw from the Auditor General’s report that mismanagement of govt assets and abuse of funds happened year in n year out and the doers can easily get away with it.Even the MACC can justify for them that it is just ignorance that caused the govt purchase to be so many times over the market value!What is the Chief Secretary got to say about this? Is he scared to rock the ‘boat’ lest his ricebowl will be at stake.

najib manaukau

The deceitful and corrupted Umno morons have run out of ideas how to keep themselves in Putrajaya and most of all to enrich themselves with the wealth of the nation. They are now only to quicken Malaysia to bankruptcy with the pay increase of 1.3 million civil servants. 94% and not 80% of them are Malays as stated in your blog. No doubt that will surely win them a few million votes plus all the goodies they are now dishing out will also win for them a few millions more. Above all plus all the deceits these morons are using in numerous ways will give them the edge to help them to remain as the watchdogs of this country. Why do they have to apply to all these means to do so instead of providing the entire nation with a genuine caring services Malaysian deserve ? They have 53 years to do what they are trying to do now and only with money they know of, they know that they can once more fool these handicappers with money. But remember if they are giving you the… Read more »