SBPA Flip-flop a Blow to Transformation

By Kee Thuan Chye
Malaysian Digest
10 March 2012

Najib Razak has just committed another major flip-flop, showing once again that he is the most indecisive prime minister we have had so far.

He has cancelled the proposed revamp of the civil servants’ remuneration scheme and reverted to the old one, the Malaysian Remuneration System (SSM). So much for all his talk about reform.

The now-scrapped Public Service New Remuneration Scheme (SBPA) was mooted to reward civil servants with a pay rise but, more importantly, to keep them on their toes. Its key aim was to transform the civil service into an efficient, productive, competitive and high-performing entity. It was part of Najib’s transformation plans aimed at making Malaysia a high-income nation.

There was to be evaluation of the work of civil servants, and those who did not perform were to have faced the possibility of dismissal – under the SBPA’s Exit Policy. It would have helped to weed the chaff from the grain, to get rid of deadwood. And aptly too, since the civil service is bloated – with 1.4 million employees.

But the civil servants balked at this. They feared that their security of tenure, which they had become so pampered with, might be threatened.

Much more significant than that, those in the lower grades (up to Grade 54) were appalled to learn that under the new scheme, there would be a huge disparity between their salaries and those of the 2,600 officers in the higher grades – a disparity of more than 1,000%. In this case, their umbrage was justified.

Those in Grade 54 and below would receive increments of between 7% and 13%, while those in the upper levels, from Superscale C and above, would reportedly get increments of at least RM5,000.

It was also reported that some employees in the lower levels would be getting a pay rise of as little as RM1.70, whereas the Chief Secretary to the Government would have his salary upgraded to RM60,000 a month, and Staff Grade officers would end up getting about RM36,000 a month.

Naturally, a crisis arose from this. What was meant to be a boon for the civil servants turned out to be a bane for the Government.

The implementation of the SBPA, which was originally scheduled for Jan 1, had to be postponed. A task force was set up to resolve the matter. Representatives from the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) were invited to thrash it out with the Public Service Department.

Najib gave the task force three months to do what was needed. Towards the end of January, Cuepacs President Omar Osman threatened to pull out if three other Cuepacs officers were not appointed to the task force. On Feb 5, the Government acceded to his demand.

Then suddenly, on March 8, way before the three months was up, Najib announced that the SBPA would be scrapped.

Suddenly, Najib says, “this decision would be the best solution for the benefit of the entire civil service”. For the civil service, perhaps. But what about for the nation? What happened to his “transformation” plan to make the civil service more efficient, productive, competitive and high-performing – to meet the challenges of a dreamed-of high-income nation?

What he now says stinks of politicalspeak. And what he’s done appears to be a politically expedient move. The obvious indication is, he wants to call for the general election soon and he needs to ensure that the civil servants are happy, because they form a big and important segment of the voters. He wants the issue resolved earlier than the allotted time so that the civil servants can get their new salaries and arrears just before they go to the polling stations. Otherwise, why would he be in such a hurry to scrap the SBPA?

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin may deny that the decision was not made in connection with the general election, and he may deny that the scrapping of the SBPA amounted to a failure in policy implementation, but would we have expected him to say otherwise?

How can it not be a failure in policy implementation when the time allotted for the issue to be ironed out was not honoured? In other words, the policy was not given a chance.

Muhyiddin acknowledges that it was gradually discovered that the SBPA did not meet the pay rise and perks demands of the civil servants and therefore it had to be scrapped. Is he therefore admitting that the policy was faulty to begin with? If so, who is to be held responsible for not foreseeing the policy’s shortcomings if not the Government? Why did the Government issue a new scheme without thinking it through?

Another interesting question – is the new scheme meant to merely meet the demands of the civil servants, or is it to meet the needs of the nation?

And what is it ultimately – a faulty policy or a failure in implementation?

Whatever it is, this has to be the umpteenth flip-flop since Najib became Prime Minister. And it clearly shows that the Government is not steadfast on its policy decisions.

Any attempt to make the Government look good as a result of this cannot be convincing. Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah says the SBPA turnabout showed that the Government listened to the people. It somehow sounds like a joke – or, worse, a lie.

How could the Government be listening to the people when in the first place, it caused so much disgruntlement by issuing the SBPA?

One would like to think that Saifuddin had more integrity than to spin something like that, but when the general election is near, politicalspeak rules the day.

Perhaps the whole shebang was engineered such that Najib could come riding in like a knight and call the whole thing off – so it would look like he saved the day. That he was the saviour of the civil servants. So that his ratings would go higher. And the votes would pour in for Barisan Nasional.

But the people who would perceive him as the saviour of the situation would have to be people who are not well-informed or those who cannot think for themselves. To put it bluntly, they would have to be simple minds. And perhaps there are more simple minds in Malaysia than thinking ones – and the Government knows this to be a fact – so this strategy could work very well to Najib’s advantage.

But to those who can see through it, he is just another wishy-washy leader. So much for all his talk about “transformation”. So much for “People First, Performance Now”. The Prime Minster himself cannot even perform what he set out to do. He had neither the guts nor the political will.

At this rate, how will Malaysia ever move forward?

* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the newly published book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 10:25 am

    Does the government of the little red-dot flip-flop so frequently as our government does?

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 10:29 am

    Najib should reduce the number of unqualified ministers who joined the cabinet “through the backdoor” in order to improve his administration.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 10:42 am

    Looks like the mosquito parties in bn would be allocated only a couple of seats each

  4. #4 by cseng on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 10:52 am

    These civil servant are traditionally BN votes bank. Public service is an employment dam to hold up any unemployed that fits, the more the better, we take it as providing public services, but BN takes it as voting machineries. These detrimental reliance of each and other is going to curse on the nation.

  5. #5 by Winston on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 11:04 am

    Frankly, the BN has no interest to do anything for
    the country and its people.
    All it did was to string along from day to day.
    And they are all the time scamming and scandalising
    That’s all!
    And if their scammings are detrimental to the interests
    of the people, so what?
    There is no more hope under this government.
    So, voters must do what’s necessary at the next GE for their survival.

  6. #6 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 11:06 am

    Ill-advised! Ill-advised! Ill-advised!

    WHy can’t Najib use his own brains for once.

    Also, when they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and have never got their hands or legs dirty, they will never know what it is like to earn your daily bread. Quite obviously, Najib has a very empty coconut. He should never have started his working life as MB of Pahang. What does an unripe ciku know about ants and pesticides. He should have started as a mandore-lah.

    Still, I think it is not too late for Najib to re-start as a mandore or Jaga Kereta boy. Tell him it’s ok to eat humble pie once in a while.

    And, if Najib so wishes, he can have Moo-yidin for company-lah. Moo-yidin is just too harebrained (oops! I almost let slip ‘cowbrained’), no, he is utterly irresponsible and so can’t even be trusted to jaga kereta.

  7. #7 by cseng on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 11:30 am

    Something off topic, but interesting;-

    B’coz the Bar question the ‘conflict of interest’ on Kidex contract.

    Awang selamat’s utusan says loan sharks more trustworthy than Bar Council – M’sian Insider

    This is transformation 1 Malaysia…

    We are in 1 M’sia era, say what u like, trust what u like and vote what u like… 1 M’sia!

  8. #8 by cseng on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 11:37 am

    The 2 faceless killers in Altantinya case also ‘ill-advised’ by whoever instructed them..

    The judge for trial also ‘ill-advised’ to write “motive is non-essential in murder case..”

    Either your advisers are mentaly ill or you have a stupid mind, that is your problem.

  9. #9 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 12:10 pm

    The SBPA could be retained for its good part to “weed the chaff from the grain, to get rid of deadwood.” The other part that is bad – the “huge disparity (up to 1000%)” – of salaries between those of higher grades (above 54) from those below should be dropped in favour of a proportionately more equitable distribution of benefit. Obviously those who recommended or in position to recommend SBPA must be from the super scale bureaucrats who have self interest in mind. Ah Jib Kor’s decision making to go forward or rescind the SBPA is likely influenced primarily by self interest of what makes the BN govt popular to get 2/3 in next election. This is the first problem, everything thinks of self interest but outwardly boasts of right national/public interests. No one really puts right and wrong in terms of national/public interests as priority except lip service. Also the quality of decision of a leader also depends on the quality of advisers with whom he canvasses opinions and solutions. A leader has to test his own decision/opinion against advisers of intelligence and independent strong character who could not only confront a problem analytically but to offer creative value added solutions. I guess that’s too much to ask for given this prevailing feudal patronage ‘bodek’ culture permeating ranks from civil servants to advisers. Ah Jib Kor should realise that at the end of the day the buck ends with him who will take the fall of wrong or flip flop decisions because of substandard advisers

  10. #10 by donplaypuks on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 12:16 pm

    The Chief Secretary to the Govt and those civil servants who sat in the SBPA committee should be sacked forthwith for trying to feather their own nest while royally screwing the rank and file.

    Najib’t $6 billion extra cost represents a 15% overall increase in civil service pay. This again is ridiculous given the average pay increase in the private sector will be about 10%.

    He should disclose how much the final increase was for the Chief Sec to the Govt. and top personnel in the civil service. Average figures hide the true top increments given.

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human Race

  11. #11 by undertaker888 on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 12:21 pm

    60,000rm a month? Does this half baked umno goon deserved 60krm a month? 60krm a year sounds more like it for these half baked goons.

    This country will go down the drain and bankrupt soon.

  12. #12 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 1:39 pm

    When Najib has decided the end of sharing power formula for BN, it means he can gone way past even before the Alliance, before Independence. We would be lucky if we were gone back to the 19th century much less the 21st.

    Malaysia is dead. THIS is now UMNOputraland. Anwar pointed it out only days before in Penang.

  13. #13 by jus legitimum on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 2:36 pm

    The country definitely has no future if Umno/Bn remains in power.The 1.4 million civil service is saddled with low productivity but incessantly fed with frequent pay revision and pay hike because they are regarded as Umno/Bn’s vote bank.A casual visit to any government department will convince you the saying that the staff there do not deserve any payrise at all.As usual,many of them just sit on their jobs and makan gaji buta and just waste the taxpayers’ money.The reason is although they are lazy they cannot be sacked.That is the reason why civil service has now turned from the ‘unbreakable iron bowl’ into ‘the golden unbreakable bowl’ now.It is true because many of them earn higher take home pay as compared to workers in the job security lacking private sector.

  14. #14 by sotong on Sunday, 11 March 2012 - 5:37 pm

    The ultimate aim is to hold on to power…….nobody cares what’s best for the long term interest of the country.

  15. #15 by boh-liao on Monday, 12 March 2012 - 1:52 am

    WHAT major flip-flop? Dat was NO flip-flop, dat was LOVE/CARE 4 d ppl, LISTENING 2 feedback fr rakyat, n now Ah CHEAT Kor glowing in praises fr all walks of life
    With his PhD char bor by his side, his approval rating has shot up 2 almost 70%,

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