The entropy of Malaysia’s civil service

I refer to the letter, “Is there hope for the civil service?” by Dr Amar-Singh HSS.

As a former government servant, I too can relate to what he was saying although I have tried to avoid writing about it directly.

The environment in the civil service is more than stifling. It is also where favouritism, parochialism and bigotry are allowed to thrive. Discrimination in terms of recruitment, promotion and posting is routine and done with impunity. Tokenism has evolved into a fine art.

If you are assertive and smart, be prepared to be sidelined and marginalised.

The civil service values mediocrity – this is absurd but true. The top echelon of the civil service is not populated by the smartest, but they know how to play politics to the hilt. To survive and keep the goodies to themselves, all they need to do is to quickly align themselves with the new regime. Soon, you will find top civil servants praising Dr Mahathir Mohamad sky high, just like they did with other prime ministers.

As a body, the civil service has its own inertia. It is not known for efficiency and progressiveness. On the contrary, the service is often associated with wastage, lack of initiative and poor service orientation.

The civil service is essentially an input-driven organisation, i.e. it will not move an inch without additional manpower and resources. Redeployment, revamp and reorganisation are hardly part of its consideration. That is why the civil service is ever expanding, often not in tandem with the size of the economy.

Left on its own, I don’t think the civil service will ever change. It will remain insular, discriminatory and even racist.

Change must come from the political leadership. There must be an insistence on greater diversity at the intake level. There must be an insistence on promotion and posting based on fairness, meritocracy and competency.

We must temper the rights and privileges of communities with the need for competition, efficiency and performance. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be talking so much about greater dynamism and competitiveness for this country.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.