Civil service as Umno’s fixed deposit or game buster

Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
9th December 2011


The new civil service remuneration scheme recently announced by the government provides civil servants pay rises of between seven 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 1.2 million civil servants and family members and assume that there is an average of three to four voters per civil servant household, this provides a total of between four to five million voters out of the 12 million 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. 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 Barisan Nasional (BN).

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 — is 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 of the government’s and opposition party’s record on the issues that matter most to them — whether it is on 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 by Barisan 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.

Likely outcome of pay increase

In the past it was the principle of hierarchy which appears to have been the most important criterion as pay increases benefitted 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 RM1,000 salary of a lower grade civil servant and a similar percentage increase for a higher grade earning RM8,000. A progressive salary increase with the lower scales receiving higher percentages and the higher scales, in particular, superscales, receiving considerably less is necessary to ensure fairness and equity.

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 stakeholders should press for a comprehensive review of urgent reform issues that have been ignored by the government during the past several decades.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 10:28 am

    Jib, how can a high-income country be achieved when only the civil service gets huge pay increases while the private sector gets nothing? What grade did you get for Econs in university?

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 10:34 am

    This is a very bad practice by the BN government. If it gives the civil servants 13% pay rise this time, they will demand 30% pay rise in the 14th GE, otherwise they will not vote for BN.

    The government should focus on bringing in more foreign direct investments, stimulating economic growth, eradicating corruption, cutting down joblessness, etc to win the hearts and minds of the people and not embark on formulating unrealistic strategies, which pose a threat to the country, to lure the electorate.

  3. #3 by Cinapek on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 11:01 am

    It is already a well known fact that the 1.2m people employed in the Malaysian Civil Service compared to its population is the highest compared to the other countries in this region.

    It is most irresponsible for the BN Govt to make this blatant bribe to win their votes in the coming GE. By giving this increase to make a short term gain, BN is condemning future generations of Malaysians to bear the burden of the debt of this bloated civil service in the form of higher pension payments when these people retire. Already we are in debt to the tune of about RM400+ billion. Such irresponsible acts will make it worse in the future.

    It would be more prudent for the BN Govt to seek ways to increase the efficiency of the civil service and thereby trim some of the excess manpower. With the savings realised from these reduction, channel these savings as salary increments to the more deserving civil servants.

  4. #4 by Loh on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 11:19 am

    ///If we add up the 1.2 million civil servants and family members and assume that there is an average of three to four voters per civil servant household, this provides a total of between four to five million voters out of the 12 million 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.///–LTG

    That is why the report produced by the Auditor General on malfeasance of civil servants attracted no action from the government. Ironically, the report serves to prove to civil servants that they are protected by UMNO, and so UMNO has to continue to be in power for them to stay out of jail, and more importantly to continue living beyond their means.

    But not all the 1 million Malay civil servants are in the position to sell the right to enter the country such as people manning the entry points, or the people who sell documents for foreigners to enter legally. Not all civil servants can decide the amount of taxes need to be paid, and the form of alternative settlements. Not all civil servants have the right to waive motorists pass by submitting good documents, the paper everyone loves. They are other Malay civil servants who bear the aspersions without any benefits, just like some Malay scholars who excelled in their learned professions but bore the suspicions that they were NEP-qualified. These people want change. They might outwardly carry UMNO membership cards, but they see through that the claim by UMNO fighting for race, religion and Rulers are only fighting for UMNO to retain power so that the gang of 4,000 can continue to enrich themselves. Had the civil servants been engaged based on needs and competency, two-thirds among them should have been assigned private sector employment to produce goods and services which would have increased the nation’s wealth and resources. With one-third of the work force, and with relevant competent officers manning the posts, they would not only make this country safer, with fewer illegal immigrants and reduced need for police force, they would also enable the country to uplift their salary; less men more share is never wrong!

    UMNO is too lazy to think about how to make this a developed country. UMNOputras demonstrated to us Malaysians of all races that they make this country a gangster state, and the powers-that-be change the equation of rewards and compensations. Those with political connections laugh to the banks, and other work to their bones and yet might not be able to afford nutritious meals. The people should change the tenants in Putrayaja. ABU is organizing activities on 15 December in Gombak. Who says that UMNO has the support of all the Malays?

  5. #5 by PoliticoKat on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 12:04 pm

    BN can’t be serious.
    Massively increasing the civil service salary was the same thing Zimbabwe did before they were hit by run away inflation.

    Where will the government get the money? Economically things are weak around the world.

    Don’t do it BN, please. Just because think you might lose is no reason to sick the boat!

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 12:18 pm

    They know everywhere rising prices of food, fuel and basic everyday services sharpen anger lower and middle-income groups at corrupt politicians & officials. Wastage opulent lifestyles and ostentatious wealth of those in power and their cronies are easily exposed by technology-savvy whistleblowers to netizens an it’s difficult to counter the challenges of expose via Net, twitter, facebook etc. So go back to basics: its money, use money to fight discontent. Call it bribe or anything, using rakyat money to give them back to stay in power in order to have the opportunity to lagi make more of their money makes financial sense. Hence throw money – RM500 or household below RM3000 a month income, RM100 for each school student, civil servants pay rises of 7-13% awarding M629 966 in total to the 91 gold medallists who triumphed during the recent SEA Games in Indonesia etc. Its strange for Dr Lim to ask if civil servants will fall for bribe of money carrot. One can’t say corruption is rife amongst civil service and on the other hand say they may not like the carrot! To say govt is irresponsible to burden future generations by such means begs the question that if it were financially responsible, the questioning of voting them out does not arise. As in all cases, any political group in decline trying to survive power will think of responsibility to nation and generations last.

  7. #7 by drngsc on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 12:20 pm

    After 54 years of being fed opium, what do you expect? They are addicted to BN / UMNO.

    On another subject,
    dear saudara Guan Eng, you were very naive, 1. To bring your whole team for the submarine dive. Firstly, you should not have gone, and let him justify his corrupt purchase. Secondly, bring the whole team will compromise the Penang state government, if an “accident” should occur. Do you not notice that Obama never travels on the same plane as Joe Biden??
    2. When you brief the press after the dive, make an issue that this dive is 21 months after the purchase of the non-diveable sub. After 21 months, you can easily make a bad sub into a good sub.

    Bad error of judgement, saudara. We need good leaders, to win GE 13. Please consider many many points before you undertake risky PR exercises.

    We need to change the tenant at Putrajaya. GE 13 is our best chance. Failure is not an option. We must all work very very hard.

  8. #8 by k1980 on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 1:00 pm

    //Secondly, bring the whole team will compromise the Penang state government, if an “accident” should occur. //

    Surely they are not going to sacrifice the lives of the 30-odd submariners on board?

  9. #9 by Loh on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 1:42 pm

    ///Malaysia’s civil servants-to-population ratio is the highest in Southeast Asia, recording 4.68%, compared to Thailand’s 2.06%, the Philippines’ 1.81%, Indonesia’s 1.79%, Laos’ 1.24% and Cambodia’s 1.18%. Therefore, a reasonable ratio target should be set and gradually achieved, to force the public service team improve efficiency and reduce the national burden.///–Lim Mun Fah,

    Reducing Malaysian civil services by half at 2.34% would still be the highest among ASEAN countries. A two-thirds reduction should be the aim, to bring the services to the standard of Singapore and Hong Kong.

  10. #10 by Loh on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 4:00 pm

    ///KUALA LUMPUR Dec 10 — Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil refused to comment on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s call for her to resign over the RM250 million National Feedlot Centre NFC scandal.///–Malaysian Insider

    Mamakthir does not realize that he can say what he likes, nothing happens, or it means nothing. Najib knew very well that Mamakthir means nothing, but he must have been taught that it is not worthwhile to fight with ‘smallman’ and so a chair is provided to him, at all occasions. It is better to watch him on close range than to let him run wild. So the political has been can enjoy the cheap thrills of opening everything nobody bothers to go, and he derives the false sense of importance. Shahrizat is only concerned if Najib calls her to resign if he intends to protect the image of UMNO. But has there anything left in UMNO to be salvaged? So Shahrizat earns nothing responding to comments by a has been. She would jump with joy had Mamakthir echoed what AAB commented. That father and son in-laws found it necessary to voice support for Shahrizat gave Mamakthir the chance to kill three birds with one stone. The stupid trios.

  11. #11 by pwcheng on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 5:54 pm

    Can anybody remember that in the alte eighties and early nineties, Mahathir said that the way to reduce the number govt servants was to privatise or the civil service. True enough he piratised many of our country assets, TNB, Telecome, Mas, Pos. However the civil service is even more bloated today.
    They will come out with all reasons when the know they are going to benefit but ultimately will forget what they said. All these are done to enrich their cronies and to gain votes. They bloated the civil service and reward them at the appopriate time to maximise their advantage.
    The problem is there are still a large group of the Malays who are naive and will fall for what UMNO say and do, not realising that UMNO is killing them slowly.

  12. #12 by monsterball on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 9:32 pm

    Civil servants have learn to take the money…and most have made up their minds to vote for change.
    There are more dignified Malaysians and not racists anymore.

  13. #13 by monsterball on Saturday, 10 December 2011 - 9:35 pm

    Bottom line…vast majority Muslims..are fed up of race and religion politics…which is indirectly insulting the Almighty they believe in many ways.

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