PM’s call to cut red tape will slash corruption

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Malaysians should join hands with the government to break the back of the corruption culture, urge Ramon Navaratnam.

As a former president of Transparency Malaysia and former member of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, I warmly welcome, like most Malaysians, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s clarion call for a reduction in bureaucracy and red tape in government, made at the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology consultations on 17 December 2018.

There is no doubt in our minds that unnecessary red tape is a major cause of corruption. The more red tape and bureaucracy, the more the corrupt giver has to pay to untie the red tape.

The corrupt receiver too likes to introduce more red tape in order to get more bribes.

Both sides mutually gain and so corruption thrives and has now sadly become part of Malaysian culture!

So prime minister, please go all out to minimise red tape and bureaucracy for the benefit of our beloved country. The rakyat will surely support your noble initiatives to cut red tape and thus combat corruption more strongly and effectively.

Deputy PM’s announcement

At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has boldly stated that about 4% of our GDP – reportedly RM47bn in 2017 – is lost every year due to corruption.

This is a major national scandal, and few Malaysians realise that we are losing so much – money that could have benefited the underprivileged bottom 40% and middle 40% of our population.

It is no wonder that our economy, our national budget and our national debt are under severe stain because of this widespread corruption. We definitely cannot sustain our economic resilience and social stability, if we don’t take more drastic measures to stamp out corruption and promote more efficiency in the public and business sectors .

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That is why all the present unproductive politicking has to cease immediately. The rakyat instead expect the government and opposition leaders to focus more on managing the economy better, reducting the cost of living and raising our standard of living and our quality of life.

The deputy prime minister quite rightly wants to improve our Transparency International Corruption Perception Index to 30th position, from the present 62nd out of 180 countries covered by the index.

This is great; but how can we do it? We must have a more convincing government plan to achieve this ambitious but most desirable target. Otherwise public credibility and faith will be at stake.

Why so much bureaucracy?

Significantly also, Transparency Malaysia president Akhbar Satar recently announced that we scored only 47 out of 100 in the CPI rating for 2017. This bad score is depressingly below average.

Outspoken former International Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz reflected the mood of the people by asking recently, “Where and when will it (fraud and deceit and the kleptocracy) end?

She vehemently adds that “the PH government must do all it can to do things differently”.

But what can the PH government do? The government can change bureaucratic procedures and policies as follows and be consistent with the minister`s advice to reduce red tape.

But we have to ask ourselves why we have so much bureaucracy in the first place? The major causes are as follows:

  • A national policy, which has unfortunately developed silently over many years, to enlarge the public sector in the economy, even at the expense of the private sector. Once we reduce the public sector, we can cut down on the bloated size of the 1.6 million public service.
  • A reduced-size public service will cut red tape and bureaucracy, because there will be fewer civil servants to tie up red tape and the economy.
  • Less bureaucracy will speed up business approvals, which can be seriously delayed because of several levels of approvals, as the prime minister pointed out.
  • Less red tape enables the private sector to be less squeezed and crowded out. It will allow the private and business sectors more space to compete better.
  • Government-linked companies and related government bodies will have to be opened up to encourage more joint enterprises with closer collaboration from the domestic and foreign private sectors to develop more multi-racial companies.
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But will the government have the courage to change policies to cut red tape? It may be more difficult to do so now, after the government and conservative pressure groups decided to reject the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Fight red tape and corruption

The prime minister’s clear announcement to reduce red tape and bureaucracy has struck the right note among most thinking Malaysians and has generally been warmly welcomed.

But, to succeed, strong political will and firm and sustained support from the majority of Malaysians is needed.

Policies have to change more radically, to improve the eco-system to more effectively to combat the vicious culture of corruption in Malaysia today.

We cannot and should not depend on the government alone. It is the people’s challenge and responsibility as well.

Hope and pray for the future

We can only hope and pray and resolve, for the new year 2019 and beyond, to rally round the prime minister’s sincere and serious appeal to reduce red tape, which will cut corruption too.

That should be Malaysia’s New Year resolution – for most Malaysians to join hands with the government and break the back of the suffocating corruption culture.

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