Call on the Government to downsize the country’s bloated civil service

Sheriff: ‘Government bureaucracy has grown so big that it’s not only taking up too much resources but creating many failures in our finance economy

KUALA LUMPUR: One of Malaysia’s former top civil servants has called on the Government to consider downsizing the country’s bloated civil service, while it still can.

Malaysia has the highest civil servants to population ratio in the Asia-Pacific, employing 1.6 million people or 11% of the country’s labour force.

And that could be a problem Malaysia may not be able to sustain if it runs into a financial crisis, said Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, the former Finance Ministry secretary-general and Economic Planning Unit director-general.

He said if the Government was really set on keeping the national deficit at 3%, it needed to look at retrenching employees, particularly in the lower levels of the civil service, to cut spending.

“Government bureaucracy has grown so big that it’s not only taking up too much resources but creating many failures in our finance economy. There are just too many rules and regulations that the public and private sector have to live with,” he told a delegation of economists, politicians and government officials at the Malaysian Economic Association’s forum on public sector governance.

He advised Malaysia to begin downsizing the civil service, “better sooner than later” if it wanted to avoid running the risk of falling into a Greece-like crisis, where the European country had to cut salaries and was unable to pay pensions for its civil service.

Drawing examples from the recent Malaysia Airlines restructuring, where 6,000 people were retrenched, Mohd Sheriff said it was better to let staff go now and compensate them with retrenchment packages while the Government can still afford it.

“It may cost the Government a heavy expenditure now but it is worthwhile to do it now while we can still afford it and not until we are forced into a financial crisis like Greece.

“We don’t want to be in that situation. I think we should do it gradually. It is kinder to do it now with incentives than to suddenly cut their salaries and pensions at a time when they can least afford it,” he said.

Malaysia is expected to spend RM76bil in salaries and allowances for the civil service this year, on top of another RM21bil for pensions. Efficiency and corruption dominated talks on the civil service at the forum, held at Bank Negara’s Sasana Kijang.

Mohd Sheriff, who is also former president of the Malaysian Economic Association, said these issues have been around since his time in the civil service decades ago though not much has changed due to a lack of political will.

In jest, he suggested Malaysia emulate United States President Donald Trump’s idea on downsizing the US civil service by closing down two departments of the Government if it wanted to open another one.

He also suggested that Parliament create a committee to monitor the performance of top civil servants and give them the ability to retrench these officers if they fail to meet their marks.

“In many countries, even Indonesia, they have committees to hold Government leaders to any shortcomings on policy implementations and projects.

“These are the kinds of checks and balance we need to make our civil servants aware that they are being monitored for their work and they can be pulled out at any time,” he said.

Finance Minister II Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani had said Malaysia’s ratio of civil servants is one to 19.37 civilians and that the high number of Government staff had caused expenditures to balloon yearly.

As a comparison, the ratio in Indonesia is 1:110, in China it is 1:108, in Singapore it’s 1:71.4 and in South Korea the ratio is 1:50.

Despite this, Johari said there were no plans to reduce the number of civil servants.

By Nicholas Ccheng The Star

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Performance culture lacking, Malaysian workers!

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian workers lack performance culture and generally spend half their working hours on matters unrelated to their job, said experts.

Leaderonomics chief executive officer Roshan Thiran said the laid-back working culture was partly to blame for the country’s low labour productivity.

“We tend to mix our working hours with bonding with colleagues and relationships whereas in other countries, working hours are made full use of,” he said.

He advised employees to perform self-audits to identify unproductive activities in the office that drained their working hours.

A check by The Star with several human resource practitioners revealed that Malaysian workers in general only spend four hours in a regular nine-to-five work period being productive.

Another two hours are spent on social networking sites or browsing through the Internet, whilst long lunches, cigarette breaks, tea breaks and office chatter make up for the other two hours.

Malaysian Employment Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said our low productivity levels could drive away investors to neighbouring countries.

Shamsuddin said the unprofessional attitude among workers was in stark contrast to high-performance nations which encouraged a professional working culture with a focus on developing human capital.

“Some here have the ‘so long as I show up to work, it’s enough’ attitude, which shouldn’t be happening,” said Shamsuddin.

Human resource consultant Dr Asma Abdullah said Malaysian culture generally regarded the workplace as a social unit where work and social interaction mixed.

Meca Employers Consulting Agency executive director Dharmen Sivalingam said some employers had difficulties addressing their under-performing staff.

“Malaysian employers generally find it hard to converse with their employees on the matter of their productivity. It may be because they don’t want to be put in positions where they have to confront their subordinates,” he said.

Sivalingam also said workers in foreign countries were constantly under probation which keeps them performing at their best.

He said managers need to develop a proper key performance index system and see to it that employees understand how they are being assessed.

By NICHOLAS CHENG The Star/Asia News Network

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America, a “Generation of Sissies”

The “elephant in the room”— one big question in the minds of so many Americans is—“Why has the middle class in America lost so much ground, and when will it recover to earn better wages (and close the gap between the top earners and the middle class)?”   The answers are brutally simple:  ”Because America’s middle class became non-competitive globally,” and, “Not until American middle class workers—and the kind of work they do—become globally competitive again”   There are two huge problems facing the America in the future:  one is demographic, the other is cultural.


America (Photo credit: acb)

1)  “Baby Boomers” are retiring from the work force at the rate of 10,000 per day, and will do so for 17 years.  Most of them don’t have enough pension or 401(k) assets to support retirement for their life expectancy (15-20 years).  Too few employerswill hire these older folks, with their potential problems of age—reduced stamina and more health-related problems (and higher health care costs).

2) In recent decades, American parents have raised a “Generation of Sissies”—of spoiled, lazy, pampered and over-rated youth—who are highly educated, but in things that the world doesn’t value very much (and thus won’t pay for).  The top 25% may be as good, as bright, as motivated as ever, and will likely be as successful as ever.   The vast majority of this generation consists of formally educated, but spoiled, soft post-adolescents, who will struggle to be self-sustaining as adults.  Because of this, they will not be able to support the massive wave of retired “Boomers,” who will be going broke in their later years.  In eras past, the elderly were supported by the coming younger generation(s).  Those days are gone.

Members of this “Generation of Sissies” have been the victims of being coddled, babied, pampered, misled, misguided, and under-educated so badly that their “take care of me” upbringing cannot be sustained as they move into adulthood.   The parents, who did this, also share in the responsibility for the failure of America’s educational system.

I won’t lay all the “blame” for these failures on American youth—although they have been willing accomplices.  Parents and educators failed to prepare them for adult life in the cold harsh world, and where they must compete for gainful employment.  Then the youth chose easy and fun majors in college; not the ones in that are in demand by employers.  Thus they can’t find jobs, or certainly not good paying jobs.

For too long, American parents have also abdicated the responsibilities for educating and raising their children to a cadre of teachers and educational institutions ill suited for the task at hand.  Parents used to prepare children to take care of themselves—sort of an apprenticeship in becoming an adult.  Along the way, they used to teach them, and demand of them, that they learn critical personal skills, and useful, responsible habits—like earning your own way in life.  Not any more.

Now, because of globalization the jobs have gone to wherever qualified workers will do them for the least pay.  American workers have fallen behind global competitors.  Thus, the American middle class, now and for the foreseeable future, will have to “play catch up” —learning new skills and how to apply them—and then employers will have to regain the work that provides the jobs.  Otherwise, the middle class will continue to languish with subpar wages—at least until it becomes competitive again, if that ever happens.  The only part of the middle class with growth prospects are employees of new, small businesses that grow–when they are not stifled by an oppressive government regulations.


Worse yet, is the untimeliness of this “Generation of Sissies,” who think that there are no winners or losers.  They learned this because everyone got rewarded just for participating. Trophies no longer represented hard work and winning to them.  Success meant just being involved and  “showing up”—and sometimes, not even that.  News flash for Americans of this Generation of Sissies: In the cold, harsh world of 21st century global business there ARE winners and losers—and YOU are losing!

The “Generation of Sissies was victimized by too-busy parents, who abdicated their responsibilities, and tried to pass them off onto schools and teachers.  The teachers were not prepared to handle these new responsibilities.   Add to this the expectations that have been created: “free meals” (government funded, means “free”) that go far beyond the old school lunches; “free transportation” (or being driven to school);  “free extracurricular activities,” and much more.   And for this, all they had to do was“show up.”  Even grades are no longer a dose of reality.  Kinder words replace letter grades, to soften the truth of impending mediocrity.

Schools now teach “softer studies” (some of which used to be taught at home by parents) make up over 1/3 of total credits: 21st century life,” or “career-technical education, or “health, safety, & physical education,” or “visual & performing arts,” and “language arts literacy.”  Many students can’t write a grammatically correct sentence, and some don’t even see the point in learning to write (cursive) at all.  They use Text-messages and Tweets.   Signatures are nearly obsolete.

Schools still require a modicum of Math and Science, but not enough to meet todays employment demands.  In many cases, one 3-credit course (out of 110 credits) is offered on financial, economic, business, and entrepreneurial topics. Teachers are not held to the highest standards either, since doing so would require compensating the best ones more, and removing the worst ones—and teachers’ unions (and tenure) simply won’t allow that.  Today’s youth learn that being late, or absent isn’t so bad, because there is always an “excuse.”  But when they get in the world of work, employers expect employees to show up, on time, every day, and actually work all day.

Then parents pay a fortune (instead of putting it away for retirement) for college because it used to be a sure path to a decent job  (Now students graduate deeply in debt—over $1 Trillion and rising).  A degree in the arts or humanities may have once been the ticket to a job, but it’s not any more!   The youth of today and the adults of tomorrow simply have not been educated in the reality, the necessary skills and the knowledge they need to be competitive and self-sufficient.  Many do not have a clear understanding of how much hard work and  commitment they must invest to ensure their own future.

Too many people  feel sorry for these “underachievers,” even though part of the failure is their own fault.   The “Occupy movement” is filled with members of this “Generation of Sissies.”  They expect someone to “take care of them” and give them what they cannot or are unprepared to earn for themselves.   Who has what that they want?  The very people who worked hard to get a good education, studied, learned, applied themselves and learned to compete.

There will be negative comments about my title: “Generation of Sissies”—as being demeaning.  These comments will come mostly from the very same segment of society that helped create these problems—and still condones them.  To them I say, “Prove me wrong.”  Right now, the results confirm what I have written.  Until America puts the onus for education back onto the people where it belongs—first on youth and their parents, and next on quality schools and good teachers—the American middle class is doomed to remain stuck where it is.  Any other outcome is a delusion.

Can these problems be fixed?  Yes, but it took an entire generation or more to create them, so the fix will be slow and painful–as it is proving to be right now.   There is an even larger question.  It is not, ” WILL AMERICA COMPETE in the global economy of the 21st century?  It is, “DO AMERICANS HAVE THE WILL TO COMPETE?   Will Americans take the necessary actions to make themselves and future generations competitive.  We can only hope that the answer to this question is YES!

By  John Mariotti, Forbes Contributor

John Mariotti is an internationally known executive and an award-winning author. His newest book, co-authored with D. M. Lukas, Hope is NOT a Strategy: Leadership Lessons from the Obama Presidency is available now at  in paperback and Kindle, and in other e-book formats at

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